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Butane importers seek appeal after losing injunction case to GOB

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Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2020. 2:37 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: By majority, the Belize Court of Appeal has confirmed the order of Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana, denying three companies which import liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) an interim injunction restraining the Government from refusing to continue their import licenses past today, Thursday.

But lead attorney for the trio of Zeta Gas/Southern Choice Butane, Gas Tomza and Belize Western Energy Limited, Audrey Matura Shepherd, told us this afternoon in a telephone interview that they will seek leave of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to hear a further appeal, even as they prepare for the hearing of the constitutional claim before Acting Chief Justice Arana.

President of the Court of Appeal, Manuel Sosa, agreed to hear the expedited appeal by written submissions only on Tuesday, April 28. The Government, led by Crown Counsel Agassi Finnegan, responded by 2 p.m. that afternoon and the summary judgment was issued after nine p.m. Wednesday night.

President Sosa and Justice Minnet Hafiz-Bertram ruled to dismiss the appeal and confirm the lower court order, while Justice Murrio Ducille dissented. Their reasons are to be given in writing at a later date, but Matura Shepherd says that in order to expedite leave they will be writing to have it submitted as soon as possible.

Each side is to bear its own costs to be taxed or agreed.

The constitutional claim, meanwhile, was filed in the early part of April and must be heard within four weeks according to law, and so Matura-Shepherd is asking the Acting Chief Justice to set a date for that hearing.

According to Matura Shepherd, LPG is and remains available for at least the next few days even as the National Gas Company Limited gets up and running. No longer being able to import directly, Zeta/Tomza/BWEL are restricted to sales from their remaining stock and buying from NGC.

But Matura Shepherd tells us that the Government retains the power under Statutory Instrument No. 80 of 2019 to effectively requisition those stock and instalments; a law passed after the importers pulled out of negotiations with Government and tried to sell at a price below the standard in the Supplies Control Act.

Her clients contend, Matura-Shepherd said, that they offered competitive market prices and that they are now being frozen out. We will have more on this aspect and what buyers can expect in the coming months, as well as a response to media statements by the National Gas Company Limited in a subsequent report.

 

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