Mexican Billionaire ordered to pay almost US$800K for reef damage

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 19, No. 16            April 23, 2009

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The three storey Azteca as it was anchored on the reef.

Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego has been ordered to pay a huge price after his luxury mega yacht anchored on the reef on April seventh. The Department of Environment has concluded their assessment of the damages caused by the luxurious mega yacht, Azteca on the reef near San Pedro Town.

    According to the experts in the Department of Environment, the affected area measured an estimated 393 square meters (4,230 sq. feet) of coral reef. The estimated cost of the damage is calculated at US $787,000 which Salinas Pliego committed to pay on Holy Thursday before he sailed away. In the absence of the Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria, who is currently on vacation, Environmentalist in the Department of Environment Jevon Hulse told The San Pedro Sun that Salinas Pliego was expected to settle the matter before leaving the country. “It was my understanding that he (Ricardo Salinas Pliego) was expected to make arrangement for payment before sailing out of Belize,” explained Hulse.

    Hulse could not confirm if the payment was indeed made but said that it was a matter that included the Ministry of Finance. DOE determined the amount of the fine based on the damaged area of the coral reef including the types of corals. Salinas Pliego was supplied with that information, accepted liability and agreed to make payment.

    Our colleagues at El Diario de Quintana Roo Newspaper based out of Chetumal, Mexico confirmed that the mega yacht, “Azteca” docked at port on the island of Cozumel on Good Friday. This would mean that the cost of damaged had to be settled before the vessel left Belizean waters, however no one could confirm to The Sun whether or not those monies are in the Government’s coffers.

    The Mexican billionaire was never arrested, instead his captain, forty-nine-year-old Salvador Villeras Eckart of Cancun, Mexico was detained. Eckart told authorities that that the vessel was drifting towards the reef after a rope tangled in the propeller, causing it to automatically shut down. He went on to explain that he had to drop anchor to avoid running aground. Salinas Pliego is a well known billionaire and owner of the Mexican television station, Azteca, and the chain of appliance stores, Electra.
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