Casa de Cambios officially established

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 15            April 18, 2002

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Regulations allowing for the establishment and licensing of Casa de Cambio or Cambios, enterprises where individuals may lawfully buy and sell foreign currencies to other persons, came into effect fully on April 15, 2002.

    "Cambio" is a Spanish term widely used in Latin America and the Caribbean for exchange houses that legally trade foreign currencies. The equivalent in Europe and Africa are called "Bureau de Change" or "Foreign Exchange Bureau" (FOREX).

    The Cambio System is expected to curb the market in foreign currency and to bring the informal trade into the official system. Currently 12 traders have applied to the Central Bank of Belize for a license to operate a Cambio. Persons interested in obtaining a license may apply to the Central Bank using the prescribed form accompanied with a non-refundable application fee of US$500. Should an application be approved an annual fee of US$5000 is also payable.

    The Central Bank will scrutinize each applicant ensuring that the operator has a clean record and should have an appropriate net worth with an unencumbered equity of at least BZ$150,000.

    Each Cambio must operate under the official exchange rate of BZ$2.00 to US$1.00. While selling the foreign currency, the Cambio operator may add a service charge with a ceiling prescribed by the Central Bank. In the case of any other currency, the Central Bank will prescribe the exchange rate.

    It is an offense to conduct foreign exchange transactions with persons other than an authorized dealer or licensed Cambio operator. The offense is punishable on summary conviction with a fine of up to BZ$10,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

    The following traders have applied for Cambio licenses with the Central Bank of Belize:

Milo's Money Exchange Company Limited - Corner Boca del Rio Drive & Dolphin Street, San Pedro Town; Forex Ltd. - 2 Corner Barrier Reef Drive & Buccaneer Street, San Pedro Town; Apex Ltd. - c/o 21B Royal Palm Villas, San Pedro Town; Shanti Finance Corporation Ltd. - 10 Belize/Corozal Road, Orange Walk Town; GC Company Ltd. - 21 Main Street, Punta Gorda Town; Sal-Baba International Company Ltd. - Corner Park Street & Queen Victoria Avenue, Orange Walk Town; Contreras Company Ltd. - 74 George Street, Benque Viejo Town; Rhadha Swami Company Ltd. - 16 Albert Street, Belize City; M & D Company Ltd. - 2nd Street North, Corozal Town; Southern Exchange Ltd. - 1 Mile Stann Creek Valley Road, Dangriga; Belize Exchange Services Ltd. - 4 Regent Street West, Belize City; Mona Lisa - 4 Regent Street, Belize City.

    In related news, on April 6th, 2002, a Belize Association of Casa de Cambios was formed with thirteen members representing all districts of Belize. The association members aided the negotiations with the Minister of Budget Management regarding the Casa de Cambios' rules of operation and taxes to be paid by the association.

    The members have elected a Board of Directors for the year 2002-2003 which comprises: President James Janmohamed, Vice President Ciriaco Contreras, Secretary Jose A. Paz Jr., Treasurer Peter Cod, and Directors Kishore Makhijani and Vinod Punjabi Ratwani.
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