The family of Government Minister Rene Montero, according to documents, got more than three million dollars in compensation and interest for lands taken by a former administration almost two decades ago. The story broke just before the municipal elections. But what happened to the land itself? In the case of six parcels located in north Ambergris Caye, they were apparently transferred to another highly connected party supporter, weeks before the municipal elections, for far less than what the Monteros had been compensated for. News Five’s Aaron Humes follows the trail.
Aaron Humes, Reporting
“The original owners of the forty-five acres in North Ambergris Caye paid between them about fourteen thousand dollars for each parcel, a total of six. After a change of government – to their own – they were compensated for comparatively thousands more, a total of eight hundred and fifteen thousand dollars although compensation prices for some of the parcels are not listed, making the total possibly more. But as shady as those transactions appeared, that is not the end of it. News Five has obtained copies of documents that show that the same parcels of land, in block seven of the San Pedro Registration Section were handed over to contractor Romel Berges who has been getting government contracts for road works. The land was transferred to him in lieu of work he had done for road clearing, mangrove and land clearing for the subdivision of community properties in North San Pedro Ambergris Caye. The value of the work was set at one hundred and fifty-two thousand four hundred dollars, about ten times more than the original value of the purchases and roughly ten times less than the listed value of compensation to the Monteros. The agreements were executed on February twentieth, two weeks before the municipal elections and at least a week before the original compensation was first brought to light by the Opposition People’s United Party. Minister of State for Lands Dr. Carla Barnett signed the documents as transferor for the Government along with Berges and Justice of the Peace Michael E. Usher – the same Michael E. Usher whose name was called as overseeing a faked transfer of land belonging to Derick Garcia in North Ambergris Caye. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.”