Dive Shop dispute continues

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 9, No. 43            November 11, 1999

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Demolition crew tearing down dive shop

W hat withstood the fury of Hurricane Mitch one year ago was no match for the hand of man. The dive shop operated by Rigi Gomez on the beachfront of the Exotic Caye Beach Resort (Playador Hotel) was torn down last Friday by a crew hired by the management of Exotic Caye. The dive shop, located on the water, was the only one left intact last year as Mitch battered the shores of Ambergris Caye sweeping away piers and anything else that stood in the way.

    The decision by Exotic Caye to demolish the dive shop came about after fifteen months of dispute between Mr. Gomez and the management of Exotic Caye as to who was the rightful owner of the shop. An employee of Exotic Caye allegedly told the new owners of the resort that a building from the resort was relocated to house the dive shop. The attorney for Exotic Caye, with the understanding that the resort built the shop, told the management they were within their legal rights to demolish the building. Mr. Gomez claims this was not the case; that the owner of Playador Hotel at the time, gave him permission to operate the shop on the property and that he used his own money to purchase materials to build the dive shop. Exotic Caye contends that Playador Hotel had no right to sell or give ownership rights to anyone, as they did not hold the title to the property. Exotic Caye ascertains they purchased the resort not from Playador Hotel, but from Mayan Properties Ltd., who took back the resort as a result of foreclosure. In a press release issued by Exotic Caye they state, "As the new owners of the property and all buildings and belongings we were under no obligation to honor any contracts made by Mr. Burnett. In cases where creditors and other parties were reasonable, we did our best to accommodate their needs, resolving many problems with condo owners, suppliers and others."  Mr. Gomez countered that his building was on "Queen's property" and only the government can lay claim to the property. He further stated that no court order nor any legal papers were secured by Exotic Caye before his building was leveled. 

    Mr. Gomez is now putting his case in the hands of the court. The challenges ahead for both parties will be to prove who actually built and paid for the dive shop. Another matter that has to be considered is that the dive shop was not in place when Mayan Properties was operating the resort and whether they had the right to include it in the assets of the resort.

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