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Belize Bank seeks return of UHS millions via arbitral enforcement

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Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2014. 8:49 pm CST.

Denys Barrow

Denys Barrow

Tuesday, September 30, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting: The Belize Bank Limited, Belize’s largest commercial bank, has been pursuing for several years now the return of some $33.5 million it says it is owed on a loan note signed seven years ago by the Musa administration.

It is in relation to monies owed by the former Universal Health Services, now Belize Healthcare Partners Limited.

The Government at the time gifted the bank BZ$40 million in total, BZ$20 million from Venezuela and BZ$20 million from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to pay the debt.

The Bank says that of the $39 million advanced to them from the sale of assets originally owned in a super majority by the Government $20 million had to be returned because it was intended for a different purpose, and so the settlement agreement which included an asset transfer agreement done in 2008 collapsed and the Government remains on the hook.

But according to Government, the transaction was already concluded and the Bank is allegedly trying to double dip for monies which were in fact never approved by the House of Representatives.

The Bank went to court today seeking enforcement of an arbitral award by the London Court of International Arbitration given in January of 2013 in respect of the loan note, previously ruled valid by the Privy Council.

Senior Counsel Denys Barrow, speaking after the trial before Justice Shona Griffith, said the full truth may never be known about the labyrinthine process surrounding the UHS matter, but it is clear that the Government is being asked to pay again for something it believes has already been settled, and which did not and does not have legislative approval and is thus contrary to public policy.

The Government is also arguing that the LCIA court was not properly constituted because their court-appointed arbitrator was alleged to have an appearance of bias. But they had earlier refused an opportunity to participate and lost their opportunity to appoint an arbitrator.

We asked Senior Counsel Barrow about whether that refusal hurts their case and he said it was possible, but the matter is moot now because the time had already passed.

The Bank’s attorneys, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay and Jose Alpuche, admit that their clients initially wiped off the debt in 2007 in anticipation of settlement but because the arrangement fell through they fell back on the loan note.

They also argued that the Bank was not a party to the Asset Transfer Agreement between BHPL, a private group of investors, and UHS.

Denys Barrow was joined by niece Naima Barrow in argument.

Madam Justice Griffith has reserved her judgment for December 16, 2014.

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