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.