Two U.S. energy firms have complained to the Embassy that bribes determine who receives oil exploration contracts in Belize. One company official who claims to have actually paid a bribe and has electronically recorded numerous conversations, alleges that the Prime Minister's driver/bodyguard was the bag man for the transaction.

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U.S. Companies' Corruption Allegations
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∂2. (C) Lagoon Resources, a U.S. company with experience in
the oil sector on whose complaints we have previously
reported (reftel), has alleged that a production contract the
firm applied for was awarded to a local business with no oil
exploration experience and that the deciding factor was a
sizeable bribe paid to Johnny Briceno the then-Minister of
Natural Resources. The firm claimed that the money was
routed to the Minister through the purchase of a cable
television business. These allegations subsequently became
public when a letter the company wrote was leaked to the
press by the opposition leader. On December 7 econoff met to
discuss the case with former Minister Briceno who stated
that he was planning to sue the company for libel.

∂3. (C) A second U.S. company, Miles Tropical Energy (MTE),
claims to have actually paid a bribe and produced recordings
it claims support the allegations. MTE principal Allen Saum
told econoff (as well as the press) that he paid US$100,000
to obtain an oil production contract. Saum stated that he
wired funds to Belize and that his Belizean business partner
delivered the money in cash to Prime Minister Said Musa's
driver/bodyguard. MTE stated that Musa's son facilitated the
exchange and served as local attorney for the company.

∂4. (C) The Belizean Director of Geology and Petroleum
(protect) (the GOB's lead expert and director of oil issues)
confirmed that several contracts were awarded against his
professional recommendations for what he thinks are purely
political reasons. When questioned about the companies that
were actually awarded the contracts he explained that the
companies had no qualifications or prior experience in the
sector and were awarded the contracts because the owners are
strong supporters of the governing People's United Party.