The nationalization of Telemedia has led to the ninth amendment and just when the Government thought the litigation was dying down, another lawsuit has landed at its doorstep. On Friday, whilst the ninth was being debated in the House, Fortis filed a constitutional challenge against the nationalization of Belize Electricity Limited which took place on July twentieth 2011. In the Claim, Fortis alleges that the nationalization was unconstitutional because the Government’s basis for the nationalization was to ensure that “the country was not plunged into rolling blackouts” was false. According to Fortis, the Government knew that B.E.L. had enough money to take it to the end of July when the rains were expected and that there was no real threat that there would be widespread blackouts.
As to the timing of the filing, some three months after the nationalization, we understand from a legal expert not related to the case that the reason may be that Fortis will likely argue that the Ninth amendment has taken away its right to challenge the nationalization that’s is guaranteed by section seventeen of the Constitution. In other words, when the claim was filed Fortis could challenge the nationalization as not being for a public purpose and not in accordance with the procedures set out in section seventeen of the Constitution. With the passing of the Ninth Amendment, this right has been taken away from Fortis. Whilst these complex legal issues are resolved in the Courts, we understand from a Fortis representative that negotiations have not yet started with the Government over compensation. Fortis expects to present a claim before the end of the year. Local experts estimate that B.E.L. is worth more than one hundred million dollars. Aside from agreeing a value for the shares that were acquired, the ability of the Government to pay Fortis will also be a major point of contention.