Land bonanza: the latest land scandal of the Ministry of Natural Resources
The Ministry of Natural Resources has been in the spotlight quite a bit about questionable land transactions. Usually, it is about some prime piece of property given to some family member or relation or political affiliate or friend as was the recent case of four prime pieces of land in the Placencia Peninsula. The defense from the Minister of Natural Resources is that his family is not normal. But from that land giveaway to what seems to be a land bonanza, the latest big thing seems to be land being given, then taken away, but replaced by big money at taxpayers’ expense. In a nutshell, highly connected persons are given land, then that land is removed from them for one reason or the other, and then they are compensated at market value prices for the land. A new case has surfaced in Rosita Aragon was paid one hundred and forty eight thousand dollars, and it bears amazing similarities to the case with Derek Gillett, who was given title for land in Consejo which already belonged to a previous owner. News Five had asked Beverly Castillo, C.E.O. in the Ministry of Natural Resources, about that case involving Gillett.
Beverly Castillo, C.E.O., Ministry of Natural Resources [February 13th, 2013]
“The person identified as Mr. Correa was issued a title sometime in 2007 or late 2007 that said a lot; a title was issued for a lot; when we went into the new system that gave the appearance that that lot that was designed, that was designated for him was available because it was not properly inputted into the computer system. That lot was made available to Mr. Derrick Gillett and he was subsequently given a title. The matter we tried to negotiate with both land owners because both had a title, so both had a legal document in their hand and the matter ended up in court. The court decided that Mr. Correa that was the original intention, Mr. Correa was given the title but Mr. Derrick Gillett also had a title. I heard the comments that he did not even own the land, he had a title and so he had to be compensated either in land somewhere else of equal value or the market value for the title he had in his hand. Yes, a mistake that was not intentional because the land appeared to be available, I want to reemphasize that, and yes market value is used it does not; if development it may have been more than a hundred and forty-eight thousand. So I said it was what it would fetch in its current state on the open market and that was what was assessed for in the valuation section and that was, yes I signed the letter based on, as an administrative process, based on the valuation.”
So long story short, the official word is that because of a computer glitch, a very well connected U.D.P. affiliate was paid one hundred and forty-eight thousand, even though he had not invested anything on the land. And apparently there must have been another computer glitch, since exactly around that time another one hundred and forty-eight thousand dollars was paid to Rosita Aragon, in what seems to be the same circumstances – she was wrongfully given title for land which was already owned by another party. It involves parcel one-eighteen-twenty; block one at the Consejo Road, in the South East Registration Section of Corozal. News Five has been investigating and has received information that Rosita Aragon is married to the brother of a former U.D.P. Minister and apparently does not reside in the country, and hasn’t for a long time. But one hundred and forty-eight thousand was paid to “extinguish or withhold” legal proceedings against the Ministry. We contacted C.E.O. Beverly Castillo today, but she told us that she would have to check the case because it was not familiar. We’ll have an update when, or if, we get that call back.