How To Steal An Island
How do you steal an entire island? Well you'd have to get title for it - and being that it's theft - the only way you'd be able to get that is through fraud.
And that's just what one or more operators did with the title for Israel Pi Marin's island, known as Bikini Caye.
We told you about the story last night - in which a police report has been made and police are looking for one man to charge him for forgery.
But it's far more than forgery - it's theft of an entire island. We spoke to Marin and found out how it was done today:
Jules Vasquez Reporting
This is Bikini Caye - a pearl of perfect white sand surrounded by the turquoise blue seas of Southern Belize. It is advertised on the internet for sale for $290,000 US dollars.
But as this duly registered conveyance shows, on the third May, 2011, it was sold by Lindberg Williams to Kings Company Limited for a mere twenty five thousand dollars.
It was news to the owner and title-holder for the land, businessman PI Marin when he got there on May 7th.Jules Vasquez
"Explain to me what you saw when you pulled up."Israel "Pi" Marin - Defrauded of Lands title - Bikini Caye "The area had been cleared, and there were some new coconut trees that were being planted on the premises. There was no one on the island. And upon investigating further, we found out that the person, who was cleaning, was hired by Mike Reyes of Kings Company to do the cleaning on his newly acquired island."
But how could he have acquired it when Marin had title free and clear in his and Rosella Zabaneh's name? The new owner Mike Reyes had answers:Israel Marin"Well when Mike called me - I think he called me the Sunday - he told me that he had purchased the island. So I said that I'm not sure how you purchased it because I still have my title. And he said, 'Well I have a title too.'"
Two titles, one island how did it happen?
Well they did a title search and found out that the land was put in play in January unbeknownst to any of the legitimate title holders.
This bogus deed of conveyance from January 14, 2011 with the forged signature of Rosella Zabaneh and Israel Marin, duly acknowledged and stamped by Angel Moreira Justice of the Peace, signed sealed and delivered, with the forged signatures of Marin and Zabaneh conveyed the land for twenty thousand dollars to Setuaye Mejia of Placencia Village.
Israel Marin"In this case, the Justice of the Peace, Mr. Angel Moreira, signed that - in his thing is saying that both Mrs. Zabaneh and I appeared before him and signed his document, and this is our true signature. It's not my signature, and if you look at the signature, it's in block letters. So it's a very poor attempt at my signature. This is not Mrs. Zabaneh's, no. And if you notice, I guess, women like to write cursive, so they gave her a little cursive on her signature."
"The signatures may be forged."
Israel Marin"The signatures are forged."
"However, the papers have been sealed."
Israel Marin"Yes, at the Lands Department, they've been logged, they've been sealed. The values have been accepted as proper values."
This bogus deed of conveyance from January 14, 2011 with the forged signature of Rosella Zabaneh and Israel Marin, duly acknowledged.
In March Mejia opened the file again conveyed it to Lindburg Williams for the same twenty thousand dollars with the same Justice of the Peace legitimizing the document.
In May Williams sold it to Kings Company for twenty five thousand dollars, plus another eleven thousand.
Israel Marin"I don't know where you can buy and Island for $36, 000, but that should have should have given you an indication that something is wrong with that transaction."
"Right, but at the same time, these people have legitimate land documents."
Israel Marin"Legitimate land documents."
"Signed and sealed."
Israel Marin"Signed and sealed from the Ministry of Lands. Mr. Mike Reyes hired someone to a title search, and the title search came out - yes, this guy owns that property, and he legally owns it."
Now Marin has to fight to get back his own property - which is a riddle in itself:
Israel Marin"I am still in a possession of a document that says I'm own it, but I don't. So now I have to go to the Supreme Court to get this kind of ruling, take it then to the Commissioner of Lands, and they will then act upon that to restore my title. Now if Kings Company transfers the Conveyance back to me, it establishes that this first conveyance, that was a fraud, is good."
"So you can't accept that?"
Israel Marin"No, how can I get a title based on a fraudulent conveyance."
"So even if Mr. Reyes were to say, 'Well, let's just settle it', you can't accept that?"
Israel Marin"I can't accept that because I'm legitimizing the original fraud that happened."
"How can you prove your ownership? You have to - because as far as the Lands Registry is concerned, you signed those documents."
Israel Marin"Exactly, so it's the craziest thing there, and I'm sure that there has to be some system in place to try to address that. But I'm being told now that I have to go to the Supreme Court to establish that this document was a fraud. Once this is established to be a fraud, then the Department can restore my title back. Maybe I have to stand up in court room, facing people that I don't even know. And for this kind of criminal activity, there might be real criminals. So it exposes, now, myself to be facing people that I don't know. I've never met them."
And after all this, the moral of the story is clear:
Israel Marin"So, my advice to everybody is, 'Listen, just check. You don't have to physically go to your property now to know, but just check at the Land Department that your account is in your name."And Marin's case is not an isolated one - there are at least 20 known cases. http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=20054