We always hear complaints about the justice system and the abysmal conviction rate for murder.
According to the American Bar Association - which reviewed Belize's justice system, it's about 10%.
But if you want a lower conviction rate, try the Bar Association Disciplinary Committee - their conviction rate is very close to zero.
And a retired American Attorney is finding that out first hand after he filed a complaint against an attorney months ago and nothing has happened. He told us his story:..
Jules Vasquez reporting
Richard Gentry decided to retire at Reef Village in Belize in 2007. It looks like Paradise but there have been problems with the development. And to have his say in those problems he needed a land title to his unit - and that's where his problems started:
Richard Gentry, claims he was defrauded by attorney
"And I said I haven't paid my strata title or my transfer tax or stamp tax and I want to do that because I want to be able to take part of this meeting on the 30th and I don't want anybody to say that I don't own any units, so he said you have to talk to Arthur Saldivar our attorney in order to do that. On January 11th 2010 I went to the Reef Village office and Saldivar was there, I never met
him before but I was introduce to him and I told him who I was that I owned unit G202 and I want to pay the stamp tax and whatever fee was involve. So he did some calculating and he told me that I owed $12,900.00 in stamp tax and $1,000 as fees for him and I said how can I pay that and he said that I can give him a cheque. So I wrote out a cheque for $13,900.00 the total of the two sums and I said who do I make it payable to and he said make it to Belize Law Center - that's my firm. I said fine and that's what I did."
This is the check that Gentry wrote to the Belize Law Center which is a business registered under Arthur Saldivar's name. The check was cashed and this receipt was issued:
"He handed me a receipt dated January 9th from Belie Law Center - a receipt of $13,900.00. So there is no question that he got it and there is no question that he has it. The only question is that he hasn't paid it back to me."
Saldivar says he hasn't paid it back because the titles are being held up due to an administrative bottleneck at the Ministry of Natural Resources.
He says he has no intention of taking Gentry's money and once the map is approved and the title is available, he'll get it with the stamp duty fully paid.
Saldivar says there are ten clients of his in the same position at Reef village where he hasn't been able to get title for two years.
Now, if the amount for the tax had been made out separately to the Government of Belize - none of this would be happening:
"Now as an attorney yourself do you lament that you were so trusting in making out a cheque to someone for a fee that really was not payable to them?"
"I do lament that. I lament it daily. I shouldn't have done it. I believe what I was told. I didn't not know Saldivar as I know him now."
And, now, Gentry says he just wants back his money - money that he's been trying to get back for over a year - and filed a complaint with the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Association
"Since then nothing at all has happen."
"You are an attorney yourself."
"I am an attorney and I am familiar with the way it would work in my part of the world in Pennsylvania in the United States. I mean a if a complaint did not go responded to or unanswered or un-acted upon for 6 or 8 or 9 months the way this one has."
And so now, he says he is at the end of his rope:
"And frankly if this doesn't work my next alternative is to go to the police and file charges with them."
"However you indicated to me when we spoke earlier that you don't want to file a criminal complaint."
"No I don't."
"The reason being?"
"I want to get paid I don't want to put him in jail. I am not getting paid if he goes to jail. At least it doesn't seem that's a logical result. I am trying to ruin the man; I just want my money back."
Saldivar and Gentry agree that they met on San Pedro where Gentry verbally requested a refund of his money.
Saldivar says he has not gotten anything in writing. The secretary of the bar told us that whenever a complaint is made a copy is sent to the relevant attorney.