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Belize Bank Vs G.O.B. over UHS Multimillion-dollar Debt #533661
12/06/18 06:22 AM
12/06/18 06:22 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 60,011
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

Day 1: Belize Bank Vs G.O.B. over UHS Multimillion-dollar Debt

A legal battle for more than ninety-five million Belize dollars was back in court today before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. The Belize Bank Limited is continuing its quest to collect the multi-million-dollar UHS debt from the Government.  Government maintains that the House of Representatives must first approve the payment. Back in January, G.O.B. tabled a bill after the Caribbean Court of Justice overruled the judgments passed in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in November 2017.  In June 2018, the Bank applied for an enforcement order from the C.C.J., but the court decided that it would not issue an enforcement order until the House of Representatives voted on the matter. On August thirty-first, parliamentarians on the government side voted no to pay the debt while members of the Opposition walked out. The Bank is now asking the Supreme Court to review its claim and issue an enforcement order. The debt stems from what has been described as a secretive deal during the Musa Administration. The loan at its initial stage was at thirty-three point five million dollars, but after being heard by different courts for several years, the debt ballooned. In court today, the bank’s attorney, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay crossed examined the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight. Courtenay’s line of questioning led C.J. Benjamin to instruct the FinSec to discuss the Bank’s offer to settle with the Minister of Finance, Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary

“The Chief Justice asked me to consult with my authorities. That is what I will do, I can’t speculate, predict what the outcome of that discussion will be.”

Reporter

“Sir is it your understanding that no discussion has taken place in relation to considering that offer?”

Joseph Waight

“The offer was made some months ago to the AG which is the government’s legal representative. I am sure it was discussed in Cabinet but nothing came my way to say that the offer was either accepted or not. Obviously it was not accepted because we have not made the payment.”

Hipolito Novelo

“Sir you are a senior public officer for the past thirty add years, a financial expert I would say, would it be prudent for the Government to accept this offer?”

Joseph Waight

“I can’t answer that. I mean basically what you try to do is try to settle all your obligations. It is a constitutional matter. I can’t really talk.”

Hipolito Novelo

“Sir one of the things that Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay pressed on is whether or not you agreed with what the Central Bank said in terms whether or not the payment or the offer to settle this payment in treasury notes or in installments would affect the surplus. Would you agree?”

Joseph Waight

“The Central bank recorded a stock, treating the award as a debt. We look at the flow side of things. We classify the debt when we actually have to pay it. It’s like a loan agreement. We passed a loan agreement for seven million dollars. That doesn’t mean we have incurred seven million dollars in debt. What we do is when we disburse it our debt goes up. In our classification when we make a payment, we fund the debt we may have to borrow money. The borrow instrument in this case let us say it is a treasury bill, a treasury note that will go up and the stock of debt that the Central bank shows will go down so it will wash out. From our point of view, we don’t incur the debt until we actually fund it.”

Will G.O.B. Accept Belize Bank’s Settlement Offer?

As you heard, the Financial Secretary was ordered to discuss the Bank’s settlement offer with the Prime Minister. But according to Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, the government has already made a decision, which will be relayed to the court on Thursday.  Peyrefitte told News Five that G.O.B.’s position on the UHS debt has been made very clear a long time ago.

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“We have an answer but I would not want to tell the media before the lawyers have gotten a chance to tell the Chief Justice out of respect. As per usual I don’t want to discuss the merits of case that is in process. I think it is very disrespectful to the court. I understand your need to ask the question but I beg of you to understand the position that I can’t discuss it at this point.”

Hipolito Novelo

“Can you say if Cabinet whether or not discussed the offer? The Financial Secretary did say that the offer was made to you as the Attorney General and probably taken to Cabinet. Was that offer taken to Cabinet?”

Michael Peyrefitte

“Well, it was discussed there but like I said we have an answer. We believe that our position was made clear a long time ago.”

Hipolito Novelo

“A no position that the government will not pay.”

Michael Peyrefitte

“You see you are trying to get me to answer it but I won’t. Nice try. It was discussed and the answer will be given to the Chief Justice in due time.”

Hipolito Novelo

“So can it be deducted that because the debt hasn’t been paid that the answer is no?”

Michael Peyrefitte

“You can’t deduct that because then the whole idea of treasury notes came up only recently. The claimant, as far as I know, has never gone the way of asking for payment by way of treasury notes or treasury bills, as far as I know which is not to say that it is a yes or no.”

Hipolito Novelo

“When was the offer communicated to your office?”

Michael Peyrefitte

“I am aware that the specific request as it comes to treasury notes or treasury bills was only recently brought up maybe I think a day or two ago or today to use treasury bills in lieu of  actual payment. It is the first time that I ever heard that offer was today, this morning.”

The Government of Belize was represented by Queen Counsel Doctor Ben Juratowitch of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The trial continues on Thursday.

Channel 5


Re: Belize Bank Vs G.O.B. over UHS Multimillion-dollar Debt [Re: Marty] #533677
12/07/18 06:12 AM
12/07/18 06:12 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 60,011
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP

Belize Bank Asks Government To Settle Universal Debt With Treasury Bills

The Belize Bank is asking the Supreme Court to issue an enforcement order against the government, compelling it to pay the almost 100 million dollar award for the Universal Health Services debt.  This is after the Parliament voted against paying the debt from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in August.

That sent the Bank back to the Court, where a cluster of local and British attorneys spent the last two days before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin arguing that Government must pay - and if not not from the Consolidated Revenue Fund - then, alternatively, with Treasury Notes - which does not require parliamentary approval.  

Responding for the government side was high profile British Queen's Counsel, Ben Juratowitch - who has previously appeared at the ICJ for Belize.  

After two days of arguments - the Bank's lead attorney Eamon Courtenay said he hopes the government can be forced to honour the debt.  

Eamon Courtenay - Attorney for Belize Bank
"The government has refuse to pay and as you know yesterday the Chief Justice said he wanted to know what is the answer from the government to the proposal for settlement. The government came with what I would describe as a disingenuous explanation today and I told the court that the government was not respectful of the court, it was not frank with the court, it was not honest with the court in its answers and I hope that Chief Justice treats their answer with the contempt that it deserves. The point is this, this is a case where the bank used money of depositors, this money of Belizean people deposited at the Belize Bank. Whatever politics the government wants to play with this, it is the depositors money that has been lent and therefore where the court says pay back this money, the government must pay back. The litigation is at an end, be honorable, be respectful and perform your duty. I hope that between now and the 11th of January when the decision is given that the government will take a â€" what I would describe as a refined and enlightened view and do the right and proper thing and not force the Chief Justice to have to decide whether he's going to make an order against the Minister of Finance, it is unnecessary. My client has said they are prepared to sit down and accept payment in installments, to accept payments in treasury notes, to accept it over time so it can be worked out."

Jules Vasquez
"You said the litigation is at an end but at a certain point you can't get blood out of stone. If the government continues to be what you all would call intransigent. What then happens? You cannot seize the reef for the sovereign assets of the country and you cannot imprison the Prime Minister, practically."

Eamon Courtenay
"Why can't you imprison the Prime Minister? Is he above the law?"

Jules Vasquez
"Absolutely not but I'm saying in practical terms, who would arrest the Prime Minister?"

Eamon Courtenay
"Chester Williams, he's afraid of the Prime Minister?"

Jules Vasquez
"I'm sure he's afraid of no man."

Eamon Courtenay
"Oh well so then there we have it. The point of the matter is we are being funny about a very serious matter right. Let me ask this question, what deal was cut by NEWCO with the government why they paid NEWCO? Who benefitted and why was that paid? What deal was cut with GDG Acquisitions and why was that paid? It seems that the government's position is that unless you come and cut a deal with them, you can take your judgement and tear it up. Whatever personal feelings may be between Mr. Barrow and Mr. Ashcroft, whatever personal feelings between any entities between them, the court has spoken and we must honor and respect the court. If not, the heavens will fall."

Government's attorney Ben Juratowitch did not avail himself for comment and left through the back.  He presented for the government in the Chagos case at the ICJ in September of this year.  

Judgement in this case will be delivered on January 10, 2019.

Notably, the Government says it is only just receiving notice of the proposal to settle the debt with Treasury Notes, while the Bank says it formally offered this months ago.

Channel 7


Belize Bank’s Attorney Warns ‘Heavens Will Fall’ If G.O.B. Does Not Honour Debt

Belize Bank’s Attorney, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay today warned the Government that the ‘heavens will fall’ if it does not honour the multimillion-dollar UHS debt which goes back to 2004.  Day-two of the case on the UHS debt concluded this evening in the courtroom of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. The Belize Bank Limited has been fighting ‘tooth and nail’ to collect the tens of millions of dollars owed by the Government of Belize. The Belize Bank Limited has offered the government a settlement deed, and as we reported on Wednesday, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight was ordered by the Chief Justice to discuss the offer with the Minister of Finance, Dean Barrow. The government’s attorney, Doctor Ben Juratowitch, read a lengthy paragraph, responding to the question. Basically, the offer was rejected and Courtenay describes the answer as a total disrespect for the court and called on the government to honour its debt before an order is made for the arrest of the Prime Minister.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney

“The government came with what I would describe as a disingenuous explanation today and I told the court that the government was not respectful with the court. It was not frank with the court. It was not honest with the court in its answers and I hope that the Chief Justice treats their answers with the contempt that it deserves. The point is this: this is a case where the bank used monies of depositors. This is the money of Belizean people deposited at the Belize Bank. Whatever politics the government wants to play with this, it is depositors’ money that has been lent. And therefore where the court says pay back this money the government must pay it back. The litigation is at an end. Be honourable. Be respectable and perform your duty. I hope that between now and eleventh of January when the decision is given that the government will take a what I would describe a refined and enlightened view, and do the right and proper thing and not force the Chief Justice to have to decide whether he is going to make an order against the Minister of Finance. It is unnecessary. My client has said they’re prepared to sit down to accept payment installments, to accept payment over time so it can be worked out.”

Reporter

But at a certain point you can’t get blood out of stone if the government continues to be what you all called intransigent, what then happens? You can’t seize the reef or the sovereign assets of the country and you cannot imprison the Prime Minister, practically.

Eamon Courtenay

“Why can’t you imprison the Prime Minister? Is he above the law?

Reporter

“Absolutely not but I am saying in practical terms, who would arrest the Prime Minister?”

Eamon Courtenay

“Chester Williams. Is he afraid of the Prime Minister?”

Reporter

“I am sure he is afraid of no man.”

Eamon Courtenay

“Well then there we have it. The point is that we are being funny about a very serious matter. So what I am saying that whatever personal feelings maybe between Mr. Barrow and Mr. Ashcroft, whatever personal feelings maybe between any entities between them, the court has spoken and we must honor and respect the courts. If not the heavens will fall.”

G.O.B. Rejects Belize Bank’s Settlement Offer

The original 2004 UHS loan agreement was for thirty-three point five million dollars, but more than a decade after, the debt is believed to have ballooned to over one hundred million dollars, more than seventy percent of it being pure interest cost.  As you heard, the government has rejected Belize Bank’s offer to settle the debt by way of treasury notes or installments. In our interview with the Attorney General on Wednesday, Michael Peyrefitte said that as it relates to the specific request for payment by way of treasury notes, he was not aware of it until recently. The bank’s attorney, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay says the offer was made about a year ago.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney

“I was a little taken aback by the government saying that this is something that is new. We wrote them about that coming up to a year, saying that we are prepared to do that a long time ago. It is not something that is new. The government was well aware of it. What is new is that Mr. Waight gave evidence yesterday that in fact we can receive payment by way of Treasury notes in a way that would not affect government’s finances and I think government was taken aback by his candor and honesty with the court. So this matter can be settled in a way that is not prejudicial to the commitments government has made to the bondholders and others. Let me ask this question: what deal was cut by NEWCO with the Government why they paid NEWCO? Who benefitted and why was that paid? What deal was cut with GDG Acquisitions and why was that paid. It seems that government’s position is that unless you come and cut a deal with them, you can take your judgment and tear it up. It is encourage in my view corruption. If the position that you cannot get a judgment debt paid unless the government of the day decides that is going to take a bill to parliament to approve that payment it means that people will be lining up at the Ministry of Finance saying ‘let’s work out a deal’. That is rule by man and not the rule of law and we are asking the court not to encourage that type of behavior.”

The case was adjourned to January eleventh, 2019.

Channel 5



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