The Orange Walk Town Council is under the spotlight tonight and it has to do with financial irregularities under the watch of Mayor Ravei Gonzalez. As it turns out, the Council is not only borrowing from pawn shops at excessive interest rates, but it is covering up its debts through a local organization.
Copies of two vouchers leaked to News Five — the first dated November 7th and the other November 21st — show that the Orange Walk Town Council supposedly paid a total of $5,000 to the Orange Walk Business Association, in loan payments. The vouchers numbered 1081 and 1182 both bear the signature of the Council’s Administrator. News Five has also obtained a copy of an accompanying receipt made out in the first instance for $4,500 and bearing the same date of November 7th. But a closer look at the stamp on the back of the receipt in fact shows that it was issued by Rapidito Loans, a pawn service of Orange Walk Town. From what we have learnt, the Orange Walk Town Council used the name of the business association to cover up the monies it borrowed from the local pawn shop.
But there is more bad news. According to a report in another section of the media, the $4,500 repaid represents only half of the total amount the Council actually borrowed from Rapidito Loans to meet its debts. And interest on the total amount stood at $1,530. This works out to a whopping 51% interest rate on an annual basis. So now the Orange Walk Town Council, which already finds itself in a financial bind and not being able to meet its daily commitments, must now borrow at interest rates of 51% in order to conduct its daily business. All this of course, will be paid by taxpayers. News Five tried to reach both the Orange Walk Town Council and Rapidito Loans today to get their side of the story, but neither offices were answering their phones.
In the meantime, News Five is following the criminal implications of this story. Late last year, viewers will recall that Belize City Mayor Zenaida Moya came under fire from her own Council for financial wrongdoings at City Hall. That audit is still pending.