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The Government of Belize has been served with court papers from Dean Boyce, former executive chairman of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), who is asking the court to stop the Government from selling BTL shares to the public, starting on October 15.

If the government does sell the shares, says Boyce, the court should then keep the monies, until the court settles pending legal dispute over the August 2009 government takeover.

Boyce is a trustee of BTL Employees Trust — not run by the BTL employees but by Boyce and former BTL chairman Keith Arnold, both point-men for British billionaire Michael Ashcroft.

At the time of the government acquisition, the trust held roughly 23% of BTL’s shares through Sunshine Holdings Limited. However, Government took the BTL shares and acquired Sunshine Holdings Limited from the trust.

In an interesting twist to the story, two days after the government announced the divestment, Boyce wrote Prime Minister Dean Barrow asking to purchase a 51% stake in BTL.

The Government had seized, by compulsory acquisition, 94% shareholding from the trust and other companies in the Michael Ashcroft group of companies. The parties have not settled at compensation. Meanwhile, Boyce and the trust have filed a constitutional motion challenging the legality of the government’s acquisition.

In his application before the court, filed this Tuesday, Boyce asks the court to stop GOB from “...taking any steps to sell, transfer, license, lease, charge, pledge, or grant any option or other rights over or otherwise dispose of, any of the shares in Sunshine Holdings Limited (the Sunshine Shares), or any of the shares in Belize Telemedia Limited...” and from “releasing or in any way diminishing its possession, or interest in, the shares relating to any of the Telemedia Shares and/or the Sunshine Shares or of any right to possession of, or relation to, such shares which the Respondents [GOB] currently enjoy.”

If the court does not agree to give the injunction to grant the sale, said Boyce, it should order that all proceeds from the sale be paid into the court pending the outcome of their appeal. Those funds should be held in escrow, he said, and if the court agrees that the government acted wrongly in nationalizing the company, the third parties who paid for the shares would be able to get their money back from the court.

Boyce and the Trust, as well as British Caribbean Bank, had lost their constitutional challenge before Justice Oswell Legall at the Belize Supreme Court, challenging the government’s acquisition of the shares; however, the case is pending an appeal.

The Irish company, Digicel, has been talking with the Government about acquiring a block of shares in BTL. The Belize Social Security Board has also been considering a purchase of roughly $50 million worth of shares.


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Marty Offline OP
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Dean Boyce sues to stop BTL sale

Dean Boyce
The number of legal actions filed against the Government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow by parties representing the former owners of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) have weakened the Prime Miister' claim made last August that nationalizing BTL it would lessen the number of costly llawsuits between the government and BTL.

Instead litigation has been piled furiously upon litigation. The latest legal challenge came on Tuesday, October 5, in response to the government's announcement that it plans to make the BTL prospectus available by October 15, 2010 to proceed with the sale of the company.

Dean Boyce's attorney Godfrey Smith, filed an application with the Registrar of the Supreme Court on behalf of his client Dean Boyce, the Trustee of the BTL employees trust, against the Attorney General and the Minister of Public Utilities, The motion is for an injunction to stop the sale of BTL shares.

This new court action comes on the heels of an appeal still pending before the Court of Appeal against a Supreme Court ruling by Justice Oswald Legall in July.

That ruling said that the government's nationalization of Telemedia was constitutional and legal. In that action, the Ashcroft alliance contended that the acquisition of BTL was illegal.

The applicants are Dean Boyce and the British Caribbean Bank against the government of Belize.

In this week's civil action, Attorney Smith told The Reporter that he is now seeking this injunction on the grounds that if the July appeal succeeds, it means the law authorizing the acquisition was null and void.

This would mean that the shares of the company would have to revert back to the original owners,.But by the time the appeal is decided, the shares might have already been sold.

In the present lawsuit, Dean Boyce is asking the Supreme Court to restrain the Attorney General and the Minister of Public Utilities from: "taking any steps to sell, transfer, licence, lease, charge, pledge or grant any option or other rights over or otherwise dispose of, any of the shares in Sunshine Holdings Limited (the Sunshine Shares), or any of the share of Belize Telemedia Limited (the Telemedia Shares), or, in its capacity as the controlling shareholder of Belize Telemedia Limited (Telemedia) and/or of Sunshine Holdings Limited (Sunshine), allowing any steps to be taken to sell, transfer, charge, pledge or grant any option or other rights over, or otherwise dispose of, any of the Telemedia Shares and/or the Sunshine Shares...."

The relief sought is to restrict the government from selling the company, but in the event that the company is sold, the proceeds of the sale are to be paid into the court pending the outcome of the appeal.

The document filed with the court further says: "The Applicant has applied for constitutional relief and has sought declarations that the Belize Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2009 (the Act) and the Belize Telecommunications (Assumption of Control over Belize Telemedia Limited) Order, 2009, Statutory Instrument No. 104 of 2009 (the Order), are in breach of the Constitution of Belize (the Constitution) and therefore void."

So if Boyce's application succeeds and the Court of Appeal rules that the acquisition of BTL was unconstitutional , that would take the wind out of Mr. Barrow's sails and his plans for the sale of BTL.

There is also the matter of an arbitration award in excess of $90 million given to the Ashcroft alliance,b an arbitration tribunal in London. The July claim will be heard in the Court of Appeal by Mr. Justice Dennis Morrison on October 21, 2010.

The Reporter

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Friday, 08.10.2010

By Harry Lawrence - Publisher, The Reporter

The latest Ashcroft move to prevent the sale of Belize Telemedia Limited to Belizeans and others was made this week in the Supreme Court.

It is a move by Mr. Dean Boyce invoking the Supreme Court of Belize to restrain the Government of Belize from taking any steps to sell, transfer, or in any way dispose of the shares of Belize Telemedia Limited.

In the event of a sale before the application is resolved, the applicant is asking that all proceeds from the sale of shares be lodged with the Supreme Court in escrow until after the matter of ownership has been resolved.

By this action the Ashcroft Group has invited the Supreme Court to rule either that the Government of Belize does not have the right to nationalize Belize Telemedia Limited, or that the process of nationalization has been fatally flawed.

The world is full of examples where governments nationalize key industries when it is in the national interest to do so.

After the Second World War the Atlee Government in the United Kingdom went on a rampage, nationalizing industries right, left and center to support the welfare state and contain unemployment.

Mr.Atlee and his Labour Goverment nationalized a wide range of industries from the Bank of England to hospitals, including electricity and gas, air and rail transportation.

The Constitution of Belize clearly recognizes the legal right of the State of Belize to nationalize a company. At Chapter 2, Section 17 it says:

"No property of any description shalll be compulsorily taken possession of, and no interest in or right over property of any description shall be compulsorily acquired except by and under a law that:

(a) prescibes the principles on which and the manner in which reasonable compensation thereof is to be determined, and given within a reasonable time; and
(b) secures to any person claiming an interest in or right over the property a right of access to the courts.

No one has ever denied, or tried to deny court access to the people who were deprived of Belize Telemedia Limited, and the sooner the claimants desist from their litigation, the sooner the court will be able to establish a fair value for the company.

The position of the Belize government has been straightforward. The company was nationalized in the national interest of Belize and her people. Adequate compensation will be paid when the true worth of the company has been established.

Mr. Ashcroft and his companies acquired majority interest in Belize Telemedia by ignoring the company's Articles of Association which state that no person or company can own more than 25 percent of the shares of the company. The fact that he was allowed to do so by the political leadership of the day does not make it right or legal.

Mr. Ashcroft would be well advised to take his money and leave. For now he can be master no longer.

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