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Channel Overseas challenges Telemedia over Channel 5

Eamon Courtenay

Belize Telemedia

Belize Telemedia

Tuesday, November 4, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting:  A group of overseas companies is suing Belize Telemedia Limited over their handling of a matter to do with the acquisition of the company by Government.

If that sounds familiar, that is because it is. But in this case, Channel Overseas Investments Limited; Thames Ventures Limited; and Katalyst Developments Limited are appealing a decision of then-Acting Chief Justice Samuel Awich in 2011 in favour of BTL, who are claiming upwards of $10 million for payments made to the companies for purchase of shares in Great Belize Productions Limited, parent company to Great Belize Television (Channel 5), and advances and written-off debt to the tune of $5.3 million.

Great Belize Productions Limited was once a subsidiary of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) through this trio of overseas companies which held shares in it: Channel Overseas Investments Limited, Thames Ventures Limited and Katalyst Developments Limited.

When the Government took over BTL (the first time), the former directors decided to spin out the television station to keep it away from the acquisition, but BTL’s new board sued and won a judgment in the Supreme Court which is now being appealed.

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay

According to attorney for Channel Overseas and its partners, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, the decisions of the past board were indemnified in the respect of the directors, that is, they are not personally liable for the sums being asked for which paid advances to GBPL and for purchases of shares.

Colleague Jose Alpuche argued that the companies themselves made no decisions, only the BTL directors in relation to them, and those decisions were in any event within their power to make.

Courtenay and Jose Alpuche successfully applied to have the case heard today by the panel of Justices Minnet Hafiz-Bertram, Dennis Morrison and Christopher Blackman in the interest of releasing his clients from their long-standing wait for justice, choosing not to argue that the decision of the BTL board in April 2011 was unlawful because the company is still in an ownership dispute.

But the overall nationalization cases are coming up in December before the Caribbean Court of Justice and Courtenay says they will have a bearing on this case and others, settling claims dating back to the first nationalization by determining who ultimately owned BTL and since when and for how long.

Courtenay represents British Caribbean Bank, which wants back its money for a loan to Telemedia, and Fortis Energy, which is pursuing the return of Belize Electricity Limited (BEL). Allies BTL Employees’ Trust seeks the return of their shares in BTL.

The Channel Overseas case resumes tomorrow with responses from BTL’s attorney Senior Counsel Michael Young.

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