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CCJ says GOB to pay $90 Million for UHS… only if parliament approves! Print E-mail
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Thursday, 23 November 2017 00:00

The Caribbean Court of Justice has issued a judgment for the Government of Belize to pay an Arbitral Award which the Belize Bank had gotten against the Government back in 2013. In a release the CCJ says, “In the case of The Belize Bank Ltd. v The Attorney General of Belize, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today granted permission for the Belize Bank Limited to enforce a 2013 arbitration award against the Government of Belize. The arbitration award, made by a Tribunal of the London Court of International Arbitration, required the Government to pay the Bank the sum of BZ$36,895,509.46 together with interest at 17% and arbitration costs of £536,817.71. The CCJ’s ruling means that the award now has the same effect as if it had been a judgment given by the Supreme Court of Belize. In addition, the Court also granted the Bank its legal costs in the CCJ and Belize’s Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.”

As of November 22, 2017 the sum total which is owed for the Universal Health Services Debt stood at $90,645,607.20.

In a release by the Government it states that “The Government of Belize is extremely disappointed and laments the judgement delivered by the CCJ. The lawsuit arose from a dispute stemming from one of the most egregious and scandalous acts of the Musa administration where the then government secretly diverted US$20 million that was granted by the Venezuelan and Taiwanese governments for social programs for needy Belizeans to pay towards a loan the PUP had contracted for UHS, a private hospital owned by PUP cronies. GOB maintains that the enforcement of the arbitral award granted by the London Court of International Arbitration is not only contrary to the public policy of Belize, but also offensive to the legal and constitutional order of Belize.”

The release continues stating that, “GOB is seeking further legal advice as to its options now, on further behalf of the people of Belize.”

And reading the judgment, in and of itself, it gives government its answer.

At paragraph 32 it states:

“We disagree with the majority in the Court of Appeal for two separate but related reasons. First, the Loan Note did not expressly or by necessary implication bind or purport to bind the Government to expenditure from the CRF without Parliamentary approval. The making of a Government contract is quite distinct from its enforceability against the State as was held by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in the Saint Lucian case of The Attorney General v Francois. That case concerned a guarantee entered into by the Saint Lucia Minister of Finance. No Parliamentary approval had been given for the grant of the guarantee. The State was subsequently obliged to make good on the instrument and a citizen challenged its legality. The court held that nothing prevented the Minister from giving the guarantee, but the State only became bound to pay out the relevant sums from the Consolidated Fund after Parliament had approved the monies necessary to discharge it. As Parliament had done so before the guarantee was honoured, there was no basis for complaint by the citizen. There are several other cases recognizing the distinction between the government’s making of a legal agreement and the implementation of that agreement which may require Parliamentary approval:…”

“Second, there is an important distinction between an order to enforce an award and an order that requires the issuance of a certificate that compels payment. To make an order allowing enforcement is not equivalent to making an order compelling payment. This distinction is similar to the difference between the “registration” and the “enforcement” of arbitral awards as explained in Micula, S.C. European Food SA and others v Romania and European Commission…”

The judgement follows up at paragraph 36 stating that: “It is presumed that judicial orders will always be obeyed by those affected, including the Government, but the order for enforcement of a foreign arbitral award does not itself compel payment from the CRF. It is common ground that s 114 of the Constitution requires legislative approval for expenditure which the Government promised to pay by validly entering into the Loan Note. If the Government procures the passage of the relevant legislation there is obviously no illegality in making payment.”

In essence Caribbean Court of Justice is telling government that it should pay if and when it gets parliamentary approval. Already that has sent parliamentarians into a frenzy all of whom we spoke to within the UDP stated clearly that they will vote NO if and when the question is asked in the National Assembly whether or not the government should pay the UHS DEBT.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 November 2017 14:22