Until recently, Pepsi Cola had been second only to Coca-Cola in the distribution of soft drinks in Belize. However coincidental though, on the heels of Pepsi’s first appearance at the Costa Maya Festival last week, the doors of Pebco Belize were officially closed down on Friday, August 6th, 2004 by the Government of Belize (GOB), reportedly due to monies owed in back taxes.
In a phone interview with Francis Gegg, former Chief Executive Officer for Pebco Belize, he told The San Pedro Sun that GOB sued the company for $1.5 million in "excise duty arrears." This money owed to the government was supposed to be paid in full by the Central American Bottling Corporation in Guatemala who resurrected the company in February of 2000. Pebco did not mount a defense within the required eight days and GOB obtained a Supreme Court judgment, ordering Pebco to pay more than $800,000 by the end of July. According to Gegg, the company could not meet the demands imposed by GOB and as such, the Attorney General filed an application to seize Pebco’s assets. Reportedly, these assets will eventually be auctioned to the general public and the money collected will be used to pay Pebco’s debt to the GOB.
As of last Friday, all Pebco operations were shut down and over 90 bottling plant workers were out of a job. Mr. Gegg mentioned that Pebco had doubled its sales since last year and planned to look for investors in the United States and/or other alternatives to provide Pepsi Cola and the company’s other products for Belizeans once again.