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The Ashcroft/U.H.S. Political Football

Posted: Sunday, December 3, 2017. 11:05 am CST.

By Richard Harrison:

“A release from the Belize Bank makes the point that both the Privy Council and the LCIA have ruled that the loan note did not violate the Finance and Audit Act. Here is my view…the government guaranteed a loan for $33 million and when the original creditor (UHS) defaulted, the Bank collected from government and did not hand over the hospital to the government but instead sold the hospital for another $39M to Health Care Partners. This is what the Belize Bank needs to explain to me before I can accept that government should pay for a hospital it does not own. How can you collect from the guarantor and still remain with the collateral? Belize Bank was part of a corrupt deal and now wants taxpayers to pay. Lie there and die there is what I say!!!” ~ Hon. John Saldivar, FB comment , Nov 29, 2017

“Let’s set the record straight. The first person who made the decision not to pay the Belize Bank was Said Musa. In 2007 when Belize Bank demanded payment it was Said Musa who decided not to pay until the the Association of Concerned Belizeans (ACB) case was concluded. You see, if you can remember, the ACB had asked the Supreme Court to declare the Loan Note unlawful. Therefore then, when the UDP came to power in 2008, the Said Musa government had already suspended payment until the Supreme Court made a ruling on the validity of the Loan Note. It was in that intervening period before the UDP came to power that Said Musa secretly diverted grant funds to settle this private debt while the ACB Case was still pending.
Then the Supreme Court ruled that the Loan Note was invalid. Should Hon. Dean Barrow have paid then? Then Ashcroft appealed and in March of this year 2017 the Appeals Court said the Loan Note was invalid. Should Hon. Dean Barrow have paid then? The truth is that the increase from 33M to 90M is not Hon. Dean Barrow’s fault as some are saying. Check the time-line I just outlined. At no point would it have been acceptable for Hon. Dean Barrow to pay especially since it was Said Musa who initially said that he would wait for the Court’s decision before paying. Chamber of Commerce is exposing it’s bias or ignorance in suggesting that UDP caused this debt to balloon.” ~ Hon. John Saldivar, FB comment, Nov 30, 2017

In the first statement, the Hon. John Saldivar is accusing the Belize Bank (Ashcroft) of daylight robbery…., low down, white collar criminality. Would the CCJ be so naïve, delinquent or negligent to cast judgment in favor of such outright criminality?

In the second statement, he is trying to put the blame on ex-Prime Minister Said Musa for the ballooning of the debt from $33 million to $90 million.

The secret guarantee Musa gave for the UHS loan from Belize Bank is most despicable, to say the least….his diversion of grant funds from Venezuela and Taiwan, with intent to cancel the loan, added to the wrong that he did. The argument that those grant funds were not Belize tax payers money does not make it right…nothing comes for free…and all grant funds are tied to political and economic interests for which every Belizean tax payer pays a price. Grants made to the people of Belize are not intended for politicians to use as they see fit…they are for the general good of ALL the people of Belize….not to pay off the debts of private interests.

However, the Barrow government was elected to correct the wrongs of the previous government….not to exacerbate, perpetuate and propagate them.

They have betrayed the people….in no uncertain terms….by allowing this debt to balloon by 170% over the course of their 10 long years in government.

PM Barrow went into government in 2008 with massive support from the people, based on his promise to curb corruption….to fix the many things that the people saw was going wrong during the Musa administration. He thumped his chest with egotistic power….and used the veil of nationalism and patriotism to take private property by force. His apologists cheered him on.

I was one of the very few who went against that wave…I fundamentally believe that taking private property by force is not the way of democratic, fair-minded, peace-loving people…and that the government has the right to increase taxes if it believes it is not getting a fair share of any business…it does not have to take any business by force.

He caused his family and close allies to become rotten rich by diverting public resources through litigation (that is their business)….going up and down to court….all over the world….losing more and more of Belizean tax payers money, every step of the way.

This practice of government taking private property without paying is as old as the hills….many Belizeans have had their properties taken away, without compensation…..many have had to close their businesses because their licenses were revoked/modified….their development concession not renewed….or any other “politically dependent privilege” that the politicos can pull, if and when an investor falls out of favor with them….or is from the wrong political party….or refuses to meet a demand for political contribution.

I am no apologist for Mr Ashcroft…..he seems to be quite capable of defending himself….and I know that he is in deep with the leadership of both the red and blue parties…pillow talk they call it…regardless of all the public rhetoric. They are arch-enemies by day…and share pillow at night.

However, the lawyers that run the Government of Belize since 1993 started playing games with Mr Ashcroft….they tried to ambush him with offshore banking, IBC registry, marine registry, intellectual rights registry, telecommunications, commercial banking….they tried to become Ashcroft themselves….so he started playing games with them too….and he is most unrelenting….and has the resources to take his case to international courts if necessary….forcing the government to live up to its contracts….contracts which he cannot sign for himself….they have to be signed by Belize Government officials. Those contracts are not Musa contracts….nor Barrow contracts…nor Esquivel or Price contracts….they are Government of Belize contracts.

Now…if those contracts were made by officers of the Belize Government without regard for the laws of Belize….is there no law under which they can be penalized? And if there is no such law….should not PM Barrow be rushing to parliament with new laws and revised laws to close those loop holes so that no other officer of the Belize Government can legally sign such secret, unfavorable agreements without severe penalty? Do you see him doing that? NO!! He is playing politics while allowing the rules of the game to remain the same….after all, it is not costing him, his family nor his close allies…indeed they all benefit from it….including Mr. Ashcroft, who for all intents and purposes is a close family “friend” of the Barrows and many of the political elite in Belize….of both the red and blue persuasions.

To Belizean investors, small, medium and large, who have lost from Government of Belize decisions to take their property or destroy their businesses, without compensation…all for personal or political reasons…the actions of Mr Ashcroft to defend his rights should embolden all of us…to start to take action when the government do those things to us. I have heard Belizean investors who have lost much even talk about causing harm to politicians and their families…but that is responding to wrong with wrong. The fact that the courts are upholding the law…and allowing private investors to defend themselves against wayward and corrupt governments…should be a consolation….even an encouragement….for private investors to use that recourse to defend their rights….instead of resorting to malicious, violent action to take revenge….instead of to regain what is rightfully theirs. Many private investors are so small in scale…and the cost of legal defense is so high…and most of the good lawyers are beholden to the status quo…that the battle seems impossible….which is why so many just roll over and die, literally.

So should the Government of Belize pay the $90 million UHS order of the Caribbean Court of Justice, the highest court in the land?

If the past is any predictor of the future….Belize would only continue bleeding from litigation if it refuses to pay. Belize needs to take its challenges out of the hands of lawyers. Cut the crap short.

There must be a way how the Government can tax the UHS over a long haul to regain some of its losses. It should not seek to own shares in a private company, especially if unprofitable and loaded with debt, if it can avoid doing so.

Are there more lawsuits from Ashcroft in the pipeline? If so, what are they related to? And what are the total claims?

It is my opinion that the Government of Belize should unwind itself from any and all insider deals with Mr. Ashcroft….he should be treated fairly as any other investor in Belize….without fear or favor….after all, the Government of Belize has the right of taxation. Any claims by Mr Ashcroft that are legitimate should be bundled and a payment plan agreed to….stop the hemorrhage.

No egotistic thumping of chests will make those bills go away.

Whosoever cannot see that this entire soap opera starring the PUDP leadership and Mr. Ashcroft is simply a political football being played at the cost of the Belizean tax payer is simply naïve, delinquent, negligent…or downright daft!

Belize most urgently needs wholesale tax reform….competition law….anti-trust law….government procurement law…and laws that make it unrewarding for government officials to sign secret, unfavorable guarantees on behalf of private businesses.

Let us get on with the business of building Belize. Enough of the games and soap opera!

Long live Belize! Free!…Democratic!…Prosperous!

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.


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