Zabaneh will attempt to sue U.S. Government Print E-mail
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Friday, 01 September 2017 00:00

John Zabaneh has declared publicly that if possible, he intends to sue the US Government for the financial losses that he and his family-owned companies suffered over 5 years because the Treasury Department labeled him as a drug king pin. The Management of the Mayan King Banana farms has also indicated that they are in the process of suing Fyffes for the 2 year shutdown, and the destruction of the Zabaneh family banana farms.

Hosting his first press conference since the lifting of the sanction by the US Government, Zabaneh explained that trying to convince the authorities from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to remove him off their kingpin list was rather frustrating. He says that he reached out to them to give him an opportunity to defend himself. They did so, but the communications were a 90-day turn around for 3 years. So, the correspondence was about 3 per year, all the while, his family-owned businesses were hemorrhaging millions of dollars. So, from his perspective, there was no sense of urgency in trying to resolve his case.

He says that he provided them with all the answers they requested, and with the proof that he was not participating in any kind of illicit activities, much less operating as part of the Mexican Sinaloa Drug Cartel. It was not until July of 2017, 4 years and almost 11 months later, that he truly made any measurable progress in trying to clear his name. That’s when he hired US attorneys to sue the Treasury Department in Washington DC.

Zabaneh claims that this forced their hand, and they had to provide disclosure to the US Court, justifying why they had him sanctioned as a drug kingpin. He explained, “When my attorneys lodged the complaint in the courts, they had to give a disclosure and in that disclosure they mentioned that plane that landed in the Toledo District on the highway and another plane that landed somewhere in Guinea Grass.”

He asserted that he had absolutely nothing to do with those illicit plane landings, and it appears that the Treasury Department came to that same conclusion. Speaking on their sudden decision to remove him off their drug kingpin list, he said, “I believe that they decided or they thought, ‘We don’t have nothing to go to court.’ This would be my suspicion. I could not confirm that. I could not be a hundred percent sure what transpired there between them. But they produced their disclosure and right after this happened.”

He estimates that over the 5 years the kingpin designation by the US Government has caused him and his family’s business to lose around 100 million dollars. He says that he has intentions of suing them and seeking compensation. Speaking carefully on the matter, he commented, “Absolutely I would be seeking redress, seeking compensation whether it’s possible or not. It’s left to the attorneys and I am sure they are looking into that as we are speaking here today. Definitely I have stated my hope that that is the next step.”

The management company, Meridian Enterprises, who had been running the Zabaneh Family Farms, Mayan King, have also indicated that they are seeking legal advice on instituting a lawsuit against the Irish Fruit Packing Company, Fyffes. They are the purchasers of all bananas coming out of Belize, and in October 2015, they ended all business relationships with Meridian in an attempt to put distance between themselves and John Zabaneh, when the drug kingpin sanction was still in full effect. That forced the closure of the Mayan King Farms because they had no buyer who they could sell the farms’ produce to.

Jose Gonzalez, Meridian’s Managing Director, told the press, “We’re taking them to court because there is no other way to look at it but a breach of contract… The lawyers are advising us and we’ll see how that pans out but they are free to contact us and dialogue as well.”

The Zabaneh family are also particularly aggrieved by Fyffes’ rash decision to stop buying their bananas. John Zabaneh recalled how they convinced the Meridian Management, and his mother, who owns the farm lands, to cultivate 500 additional acres of bananas. This was land being used to grow citrus, and these crops were already generating revenue. With great reluctance, the family decided to remove the citrus off the land, and they followed the plan of the Fyffes executives, who were encouraging this change. Weeks later, Fyffes cut the farms off, and that investment was never realized.

The two years of stalled operations have not been kind to the 1400 acres of banana fields that made up the once successful Mayan King Farms. There are no agro-inputs to keep the banana plants healthy, and they are overrun by wild vegetation. Jose Gonzalez is confident that if they are given a fair opportunity to resume farming operations, the Mayan King farms can be restored to their past profitability.

Gonzalez said, “We’re hoping that with the new revelation in the news that the designation has been lifted, we believe that we will now be able to explore possibilities, more players will come to the table, government will be a lot more free to engage us.”