Ashcroft companies seek enforcement for US $50 million in arbitration awards

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Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2017. 3:27 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: On Monday, two companies linked to British billionaire, Michael Ashcroft asked a D.C. federal judge for permission to enforce $50 million in confirmed arbitral awards against the country, saying it has no excuses now that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected its appeals.

In 2014, Belize Social development Ltd. won a US $22.5 million judgement after arbitrators found the country illegally seized a related telecommunications company. BCB Holdings Ltd. and the Belize Bank Ltd. also won US $27.4 million after the country’s government failed to make good on a debt it guaranteed.

Earlier this month, Belize’s last appeal was turned away by the court. Belize has fought enforcement in U.S. courts for years.

According to an article by Jack Newsham of Law360, this week, the companies said that enough time has passed for the court to unleash them on whatever U.S. assets Belize might have.

Courts have concluded in the past that a few months is long enough to wait for a country to comply with a judgment.

In a January 11 statement made by GOB, it stated that it “has no intention of paying a penny” of the arbitration awards.  “Belize has received more than adequate time to make payment and has steadfastly refused,” BSDL said.

The article explains that Newco Ltd., an airport management contractor with a confirmed arbitral award against Belize that remains in place after the Supreme Court rejected the country’s appeals, doesn’t appear to have moved to enforce it yet, according to docket information for the case. A lawyer for the company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for Belize didn’t respond to a request for comment either, the article noted.

The case with BCB Holdings involved a US $20.5 million award following a dispute over a 2005 deal between then-Belize Prime Minister Said Musa and BCB, a Belizean financial services company controlled by U.K. billionaire and Musa campaign contributor Ashcroft, to guarantee a medical company’s debt to the bank.

It further expounded that: “The deal wasn’t approved by lawmakers, however, and the Caribbean Court of Justice — Belize’s court of last resort — eventually ruled that such agreements are unconstitutional in Belize and contrary to the foundations of rule of law and democracy in the Caribbean.”

In the other case, the D.C. Circuit upheld a monetary award that was issued by arbitrators at the London Court of International Arbitration’s to Belize Telemedia Ltd., which was assigned to Belize Social Development. The award was handed down in arbitration over a contract executed by Musa with Belize Telemedia, which in part provided the company tax exemptions and relief from import duties.

The Musa administration ended in 2008 and the new Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow declared that the agreements were corrupt and said his government wouldn’t honor them.

Telemedia and BCB both initiated arbitration proceedings and won them after the country failed to show up and contest them.

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