DataPro property is now BTL’s: PM Musa
by Adele Ramos-Daly
BELIZE CITY, Wed, Jan. 11, 2006
“Nothing illegal has happened” with SSB-Glenn Godfrey transactions
On Wednesday, January 11, we had a rare opportunity to ask Prime Minister, Hon. Said Musa, about a number of current issues. One of them was a recent report that he had ordered the transfer of Glenn Godfrey’s DataPro property to the Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL).
We had first reported on the story in the Sunday, January 1, 2006, edition of Amandala, in the article titled, “P.M. Musa orders transfer of DataPro to BTL.”
According to P.M. Musa, the transfer is complete and the transfer of two other Godfrey properties to BTL is in progress. Still, Central Government is out at least $12 million.
Musa told us that GOB would “sue” to try to recover the remaining funds.
“We have to look at all the assets that are still available and go after them,” he told us.
He said that Government recently paid $1.8 million to meet Northern Data Pro defaults; this is on top of US$5 million that GOB lost in the Antigua Overseas Bank due to defaults by Godfrey affiliates last March.
Our understanding is that the DataPro property, which Musa said has been transferred to BTL, was assigned to Social Security and not to Central Government, and there are questions as to the legality of the PM’s order. In fact, a Supreme Court case on the same matter is still pending, and currently slated to be called up on Tuesday, January 31.
As we had reported, the transfer without a court order is contrary to legal advice from Social Security’s own attorney, Shoman and Chebat.
Today we asked P.M. Musa what was his rationale for ordering the transfer without a ruling from the court.
He told us: “Initially, the legal advice was that we had to get a court order, but when further research was done into it, because of the type of title that it was and because of the type of mortgage clauses, it gave the SSB the authority to transfer the title without having to get an order. At least that is the legal advice that I received from the Solicitor General [Elson Kaseke], and based on that, I gave the instruction.”
Below are more excerpts from that interview:
Amandala: Why is it that it is Central Government doing this, and not Social Security ordering the transfer?
Musa: Because Central Government is ultimately responsible to pay if there is a default, not SSB.
So has the transfer [of DataPro] been effected?
So DataPro now belongs to BTL?
That part of it that had the Intelco assets, yes.
That’s the 14.47 acres?
What about the other properties that were advertised in the newspapers?
Those are being transferred as we speak. In other words, the total 19 point whatever it is, under which mortgages were held, are being transferred to BTL and in turn BTL assumes the debt payments.
So does this mean that Social Security’s exposure with regards to those loans is settled?
So then, let’s say—you don’t want to pre-empt what the investigations are going to reveal—but let’s say again, it is found that someone has exceeded their authority in terms of doing these transactions. What legal recourse is there? Can they be reprimanded or punished?
I think the matter will be cleared up. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding going on, including by certain members of the very Senate Committee. They don’t understand what really transpired and hopefully now that they have examined all the documents they will understand that nothing illegal has happened.
You can argue that maybe some bad judgments were made in terms of lending money on that type of security—insecurity, if you like—but in terms of illegality or criminality, from day one I’ve never felt that there’s been any.
Is Central Government still paying for Glenn Godfrey’s defaults, for any of the transactions?
GOB has made payment of $1.8 million, which, of course, we will try and recover now.
How do you go about recovering that?
SSB’s attorney, Shoman and Chebat, published two notices dated October 28, 2005, in the Gazette of November 5, 2005, which indicated that SSB would sell two properties in 60 days. Those properties are: (i) 4,186.29 square yards of land near the junction of the Boom Road and the Northern Highway mortgaged by Aquarius Limited, and (ii) 22.872 acres of land near Mile 14.5 Miles, opposite the Boom cut off road mortgaged by Santa Cruz Data Processing Zone Limited.
The bone of contention is the DataPro property, totaling 14.470 acres. Our research has shown that since February 25, 1999, the land has been in the name of two companies - DataPro International Limited and Mile 13 ½ Company Limited, both registered at Godfrey’s law firm at 37 Regent Street.
The land, initially granted to Hipolito Castillo in1981, was transferred to Godfrey’s companies. It was first assigned to St. James National Building Society on March 1, 1999, then to Provident Bank and Trust, and back to St. James National Building Society in 2000. Then in March 2000, the land was assigned to the Social Security Board.
The Sol Gen contends that since DataPro defaulted on its US$8.9 million, SSB is entitled to sell the land even without a court order.