Lawyers not ready for Petrocaribe case

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: Today was the date set for the trial of the lawsuit filed by member of the House of Representatives for Cayo South, dean PMHonorable Julius Espat against Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development Honorable Dean Barrow.

Over vociferous objections, the Prime Minister has pushed through first a motion authorizing loans from ALBA Petrocaribe Belize Energy Limited under an agreement entered into in 2012, then a law, the Petrocaribe Loans Act of 2015, which gave retroactive and future approval for such loans, and most recently, amended that law with the intent of further clarifying its intents and purposes.

However, neither side is ready for trial and the Court’s calendar is so full that Justice Courtney Abel could only agree to a date in December – the first and second, respectively – for trial.

What’s taking so long, especially on a matter of such public interest? Attorneys for both sides – Jarrard Ysaguirre, who held brief for Senior Counsel Denys Barrow on behalf of the Prime Minister and Attorney General and Senior Counsel Magali Marin-Young, who held brief for Espat and fellow Senior Counsels Eamon Courtenay and Andrew Marshalleck – say that the legislative process has been held up and does affect the outcome of the case.

The amendments to the Act are yet to become formal law. Stevanni Duncan held brief for Rodwell Williams on behalf of ALBA Petrocaribe who is also a defendant in the case.

The two sides will meet a week before trial on November 23 at which time the claim may be struck out if the claimants are not ready.

julius espatIn court Justice Abel said that while the legislation except as interpreted is not his domain, the arguments and litigation are and there will be serious consequences as a result of any further delay.

While it was not discussed by Marin Young, there are rumblings of dissension that may see the two lead Senior Counsels step back. We also understand that party leader and Leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca may want to join the claim as a party but that has not been confirmed.

The November 17, 2014 motion authorized spending of over $230 million dating back to 2010, which paid for many projects including the starting of the National Bank, infrastructural improvements and building of sporting facilities under the Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL).

Prime Minister Barrow has said that the Government has been accountable for each Petrocaribe dollar it spends, approved by the Venezuelan Government, and that Belizeans do not care much about how the money is spent because the improvements can be seen.

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