Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2023. 11:13 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The saga of two acres of land that traveled through several hands – as well as monies attached to them – has ended with the courts ruling that neither attorney Sharon Pitts nor Andre Vega were to blame for being overly compensated by the Government of Belize due to its own mistakes.
A total of two acres of land was involved. The Ministry of Natural Resources under Minister Gaspar Vega erroneously sold part of the private property to another individual, who then sold his title to Andre Vega, the Minister’s son. After discovering that it was not within the Government’s right to sell that which it did not own, it compensated the younger Vega at market value to the tune of $400,000. It subsequently did the same for Pitts.
When the matter came out in 2016, it led to Gaspar Vega losing that Ministerial portfolio and the Government seeking its money back. But after the Supreme Court initially ruled in its favour against Andre Vega in 2019, the Court of Appeal reversed that decision and Andre Vega was able to keep the funds, which it was ruled he had not dishonestly obtained. Meanwhile, Pitts’s case went to mediation and after several years, in December, the Supreme Court ruled for Pitts on similar grounds to that of Vega.
Senior Counsel Hubert Elrington told reporters that he had tried to get the case settled after the Court of Appeal ruling, but the Government was unpersuaded: “I said to the Attorney General’s ministry, and I addressed the letter to the attorney general, that having regard to what the Court of Appeal had found to be the law in the Andre Vega case, there could not possibly be any ground for any allegation that Ms. Sharon Pitts had behaved improperly, or had broken any law or conspired with anybody or had gotten any money by an unjust or fraudulent act. And in view of that, would they still wish to proceed with their claim against Ms. Sharon Pitts? I thought that we could resolve the matter by negotiation, by just settling it. But apparently, they were very, very, very firm in their belief that they could get the court, the Supreme Court, to find and make a decision that was contrary to what the Court of Appeal had said. They wanted the Supreme Court of Belize to defy the Court of Appeal and to find that there was unjust enrichment and improper and unlawful behavior on the part of my client.”
Elrington further claims that absent any finding of impropriety, he could only find one reason why the Government would continue the claim: “I was dealing with one thing and one thing only: Did Sharon Pitts act improperly in any way? Was there any dishonesty? Was there any fraud? Was there any violation of high moral standings and ethics on her part? And I could not find not even a scintilla, not even the smallest fraction of evidence to show that in all her dealings, she was anything but professional and of high moral standing. So how the attorney general and the attorney general’s ministry came to just the opposite conclusion appears to me to be motivated by malice and nothing else.”
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