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BTL to appoint interim chair to lead an investigation of Net Vasquez

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Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2020. 3:56 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) is moving to appoint an interim replacement for now ex-chairperson of the Board of Directors, Nestor Vasquez, following his resignation earlier this week, according to Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

The Government, as holders of the company’s “Golden Share”, can make the appointment without the consent of the Board, but obviously wishes to consult with them. The appointment is due in the next few days and the appointed person will be in charge of company affairs and the Vasquez affair, perhaps past the P.M.’s tenure.

Vasquez stepped down approximately a month before he was scheduled to retire due to allegations of improper misuse of the company’s credit card, allegedly for personal expenses; overseeing an advance of payments to his television company Tropical Vision Limited (Channel 7) for advertising costs, and improperly transferring a company vehicle into his name, then to someone else not affiliated with the company.

The investigation cannot begin, the Prime Minister said, until the interim chair is appointed; he ruled out his CEO, Audrey Wallace, taking up the post due in part to her company Color Blind’s relationship with BTL and the fact that she works in his administration.

According to Channel 5 News, former Governor of the Central Bank and another advisor to the P.M., Alan Slusher, has had his name floated as a replacement.

But why would Vasquez resign? The P.M. said he doesn’t know Vasquez’s rationale for agreeing to step down, but “in a situation like that, you can say you’ve done nothing wrong but that in order to deal with the issue of appearances, and in order for the investigation to proceed in a manner that, as Chairman, there can be no question of your trying to obstruct, that the best thing is to resign…I believe that he feels that whatever occurred is not something that, in fact, fingers him as being dishonest. That’s a matter, it’s a position he is certainly entitled to take, and the question of the public opinion – already there are those who feel one way or another about what has happened, but in terms of an informed judgment, clearly that can only properly be made once the investigation is concluded.”

P.M. Barrow called Vasquez “a lion in winter;” while approaching his ninth decade, “…the fact that he was of an advanced age did not diminish certainly my appreciation of his many talents and I don’t think in any way it interfered with his ability to discharge his duties as chair of the B.T.L. board. He’s an unusual man in so very many ways. He is an extremely special fellow and I thought if you leave aside this question of the allegations that have surfaced, I thought that he continued to do a good job.”

The P.M. was not clear as to the details of the Channel 7 contract, so did not comment.

Any decision on his withdrawal from other statutory positions – on the Social Security Board, APBEL, and on the Integrity Commission – would have to be discussed between Vasquez and Barrow.

 

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