We have highlites from today's house meeting.

On the Parliamentary side, a number of significant bills were introduced and passed - which took only about two hours to get done. But the biggest news of the day came when the PUP members spoke on the adjournment - which took more than three hours.

PUP Representative for Caribbean Shores Kareem Musa spoke about the Sanctuary Belize scam - which was staged in in southern Belize by US fraudsters. As has been widely reported, it was shut down by the US Federal Trade Commission - which described it as the biggest land scam it's ever put the brakes on. In the process, the FTC's suit in the US froze the foreign accounts of Atlantic International Bank - and forced that bank to shut down.

That's a lot of water under the bridge, but Musa warned that this one still has a ways to go - and the PM snapped back that he was wrong - because a settlement is about to be signed:...

Hon. Kareem Musa, PUP Caribbean Shores
"So where is the FTC going to recover the victims' losses from? The cards for this Sanctuary Bay saga will be put on the table. The FTC wants its pound of flesh as the Prime Minister readily acknowledges it will not back down, it will not go away. So who will give this pound of flesh? Will it be Atlantic Bank or the government and the people of Belize."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"What you said last about what is going to happen when there is an autopsy conducted by the FTC, what you said last about the government and people of Belize pay, that's wishful thinking, because in consequence of several things including the intervention of the government of Belize with the government of the United States, yesterday and in principle settlement was reached in Miami that will see an end to the AIBL saga. I'm not at liberty to go beyond that in terms of the details of the settlement, but I can tell you there is no question of the government of Belize or the Central Bank pay any money. It is not by any means a perfect settlement. It can't be, because there was this compliant and the FTC will to some extent have its pound of flesh, but contrary to you fond wishes and hopes and expectations sir, there pound of flesh will not cost the Belizean tax payer a penny, will not see again contrary to what you are trying to incite, will not see Atlantic Bank domestic be the object of any scrutiny or inquiry by the FTC and that in all the circumstances is a great win for Belize."

And while the PM describes it as a great win for Belize, Musa described it as a windfall for the PM's law firm. Here's the back and forth on that:

Hon. Kareem Musa, PUP Caribbean Shores
"When these international fraudsters first came to Belize who do you think they went to to form and incorporate their companies? They went to the law firm of Barrow and Williams and who did they go to get the legal assistance in order to acquire the same real-estate that would then be used as the engine of this fraud? Yes, they used the law firm of Barrow and Williams. When these fraudsters, these Sanctuary Bay fraudsters were faced with lawsuits, who do these scam artists engage to defend them against the claims of victims of their fraud? Once again Barrow and Williams. So more and more legal fees for Barrow and Williams. I am not jealous Prime Minister, I am just showing you that when the FTC does their autopsy and their open up this cadaver we will see, because its going to be a long, lengthy autopsy when it comes to Sanctuary Bay, but you then begin to see where the Prime Minister's law firm has its hooks deeply engrain in this cadaver."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"In terms of my law firm and my law partner, I don't of course practice anymore, but whether initially when a company came to Belize it approached Rodwell Williams and Barrow and Williams to do papers of incorporation, that's in the normal course as you well know of legal business and when you talk about Barrow and Williams representing members of Sanctuary Bay, what you omit to say is that this was with respect to a defamation suit brought against an individual who clearly was a Sanctuary Bay principal and who went to law represented by Rodwell Williams and won, so the court pronounce in favor of the individual and the fact that Rodwell represented him is not only no shame on Rodwell, it is to his credit, because he won."

And while that was normal parliamentary bickering, the PM said it was bigger than politics when Musa made a broad swipe at the Atlantic International Bank's ownership. The PM said he was inviting disaster:

Hon. Kareem Musa, PUP Caribbean Shores
"Perhaps Mr. Pelayo can answer these questions for us. He is the former CEO who suddenly found millions of dollars to buy controlling ownership of the bank, when he was merely a bank manager up to that point in time. Where would be have found the millions of dollars to undertake such a transaction? Did the Central Bank give him a foreign exchange permit to purchase all those millions to buy the shares from Atlantic Bank when the foreign reserves of the country is so scarce? or was that transaction a mere paper transaction from Atlantic Bank? Now Mr. Pelayo who is bank manager all of a sudden he is the owner. Is it a farce? It is a front to cover up who are the real shareholders?"

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"He is in effect suggesting that the separation between Atlantic International Bank Limited and Atlantic Bank domestic is not real. You talk about an FTC anatomy? You are inviting that sort of thing. You are in fact making accusations against Atlantic domestic. Which if your accusations caused any kind of inquiry into Atlantic Bank domestic, can and would indeed put the safety and security of that bank at risk. Now, Atlantic International Bank was one thing, that's gone, but Atlantic domestic is a systemic bank. All I am asking you sir try to score your political opportunities, but have some kind of a thought to Atlantic domestic and the sanctity of the jurisdiction and our financial system. You are really playing with fire."

Hon. Kareem Musa, PUP Caribbean Shores
"I was going to go a bit further, because a UDP Senator is also involved, but I won't even go there, because you think I want to be a part of this sham which I will never be sir, but out of respect for you Madam Speaker, because you have asked me to, I will not call any names. But it's going to come out. It's a long autopsy and it's going to come out and you know that."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"I have a duty and it was on that basis to try as best as I can to protect our financial system and to protect all banks in this country especially Atlantic domestic, which is now the systemic bank. Its the biggest bank in Belize and when you take those kinds of absolutely prejudicial shots at them, when you almost invite the FTC which as has been said to us can collapse a bank simply by indicating that it is looking at that bank. When you invite them to do precisely that and perhaps to say that they are doing that, you are in fact attempting to take away the corresponding banking relationship that Atlantic Bank has with the commercial banks in the states and looking to collapse that bank, really sir."

The settlement - though already agreed upon - will take a few months to finalize due to FTC's normal procedures.

Channel 7


Sanctuary Bay – A Cadaver Investigated by FTC

A thorough investigation into the real estate swindle that was Sanctuary Bay is being undertaken by the Federal Trade Commission, an independent arm of the U.S. government tasked with providing and promoting consumer protection.  The scam in which American investors lost over a hundred million U.S. dollars was perpetrated in Belize through Atlantic International Bank Limited and has been described as the largest real estate fraud in U.S. history.  But as the probe continues, additional information is being uncovered, including the purported involvement of the prime minister’s law firm in incorporating the venture, as well as providing legal representation for its principals.  In the house this afternoon, Caribbean Shores Area Rep Kareem Musa took aim at the PM and accused him and his family of collecting huge legal fees from Sanctuary Bay.  The charge undoubtedly led to a back and forth between the PM and Musa.

Kareem Musa, Area Representative, Caribbean Shores

“This Sanctuary Bay saga is much bigger than just a real estate scam, Madame Speaker, because it no doubt is yet another dagger, another lethal blow to the financial sector of our country.  It is coming on the heels because for the last four years this government and this country has been faced with many crisis in the financial sector, starting with the loss of correspondent banking, followed thereafter by being blacklisted by the E.U., followed by the loss of the license for Choice Bank and now Atlantic International Bank.  So we’ve had a lot of hits, Madame Speaker, when it comes to the financial sector and this Sanctuary Bay saga has had a ripple effect and has no doubt caused a major dent for our country.  But Madame Speaker, the Sanctuary Bay saga also represents the dangerous, incestuous intersection of U.D.P. politics with U.D.P. business and international fraudsters.  At every turn, Madame Speaker, we have the Barrow families, and I will say Barrows because it’s more than just one.  Their tentacles are deeply hooked indiscriminately sucking up the fees from every possible source, and I am talking about the legal fees.  The Sanctuary Bay saga, like all other scandals and sagas that have negatively impacted our country, all have the same outfit, the same modus operandi and this one is no different Madame Speaker.  When these international fraudsters first came to Belize, who do you think they went to, to form and incorporate their companies?  They went to the law firm of Barrow and Williams.  And who did they go to Madame Speaker, to get the legal assistance in order to acquire the same real estate that would then be used as the engine of this fraud.  Yes Madame Speaker, they used the law firm of Barrow and Williams.”

Was Atlantic Bank Ltd. Involved in Questionable AIBL Ownership Transaction?

Musa openly questioned the business transaction during which principal ownership of AIBL was assumed by former Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Pelayo, but not before taking a few more swipes at the Barrow family.

Kareem Musa, Area Representative, Caribbean Shores

“When these fraudsters, these Sanctuary Bay fraudsters were faced with lawsuits, who did these scam artists engage to defend them against the claims of victims of their fraud?  Once again, Barrow and Williams, Madame Speaker.  So more and more legal fees for Barrow and Williams.  Ah noh jealous, Prime Minister, I’m just showing you that when the FTC does their autopsy and they open up this cadaver, we will see because it’s going to be a long, lengthy autopsy when it comes to Sanctuary Bay, Madame Speaker.  But you will then begin to see where the prime minister’s law firm has its hooks deeply ingrained in this cadaver.  Madame Speaker, when the fraud is unraveled the FTC fines that victims have lost over one hundred million US dollars as a result of this Sanctuary Bay real estate scam.  And then the FTC appointed a receiver over the assets of the scam companies and who do they appoint as receiver, Madame Speaker?  Who did they appoint to receive in this Sanctuary Bay scandal?  Take a wild guess Barrow and Williams. Madame Speaker, perhaps Mr. Ricardo Pelayo, and I don’t mind calling his name.  Perhaps Mr. Pelayo can answer these questions for us.  He is the former C.E.O. who suddenly found millions of dollars to buy controlling ownership of the bank when he was merely a bank manager, Madame Speaker, up to that point in time.  Where would he have found the millions of dollars to undertake such a transaction.  Did the Central Bank give him a foreign exchange permit to purchase all those millions to buy the shares from Atlantic Bank when the foreign reserve of the country is so scarce?  Or was that transaction, Madame Speaker, a mere paper transaction from Atlantic Bank?  Now Mr. Pelayo who is the bank manager, all of a sudden he da di owner.  Is it a farce, Madame Speaker?  Is it a front to cover up who are the real shareholders?”

PM Warns Musa’s Assertion May Point FTC to Atlantic Bank Ltd.

While the Caribbean Shores Area Rep enjoys parliamentary privilege for utterances in the house, the prime minister took umbrage to the allegations that the Atlantic Bank may have had a hand in the purportedly dubious transaction.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“He is, in effect, suggesting that the separation between Atlantic International Bank Limited and Atlantic Bank domestic is not real.  You talk about an FTC anatomy; you are inviting that sort of thing.  You are, in fact, making allegations against Atlantic domestic which if your accusations cause any kind of inquiry into Atlantic Bank domestic can and would indeed put the safety and security of that bank at risk.  Now Atlantic International Bank was one thing, that’s gone, but Atlantic domestic is a systemic bank.  All I am asking you sir, try to score your political opportunities but have some kind of a thought to Atlantic domestic and the sanctity of the jurisdiction and our financial system.  You’re really playing with fire and of course Atlantic domestic can do nothing because he is covered by privilege in this House.  I really hope, Madame Speaker, that if he doesn’t stop, you will stop him from trying to suggest that there is anything fraudulent in terms of the separation between AIBL and Atlantic domestic.  That is way out man.”

Channel 5