Sunshine fails to get back 114 million from Ashcroft Print E-mail
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Thursday, 17 May 2018 00:00

Sunshine Holdings, the Government controlled company acquired from the Ashcroft Alliance during the fight over the ownership of BTL, has lost its lawsuit against the Alliance. Justice Courtney Abel has ruled that they will not get any of the 114 million dollars they were trying to get from the Alliance.

In the last issue of the Guardian Newspaper, we told you about the opening arguments in this case. Dean Boyce, and the Trustees of the BTL Employees Trust, an Ashcroft outfit, received the last installment in their share of BTL settlement last year. This was compensation that the Barrow Government paid them for the 11 million+ shares in the telecommunication company that the Government took control over on behalf of the people of Belize.

Sunshine and its Government-appointed director, Nestor Vasquez, disputed this payment of compensation to Dean Boyce and the BTL Employees Trust. Their position is that these 11 million+ BTL shares were assets of this company, and so, in their opinion the compensation payment should have gone to them.

They are also in about 20 million dollars of debt incurred before the BTL Nationalization. Back when Sunshine was an Ashcroft Company, it got a loan from the Musa Administration and the Social Security Board of 10 million dollars each. The proceeds of that loan was used to purchase the BTL shares. Now that the shares have been taken away from the company, it has no more assets, and it can’t pay those loans.

So, the Government-controlled Sunshine of today filed a claim before Justice Abel seeking restitution and that the court will trace the money and get paid to Sunshine, like the Government entity believes it should have been.

For 3 days, Sunshine’s attorney, Rodwell Williams and the Ashcroft attorney, Eamon Courtenay, argued over whether or not the judge should grant Sunshine what it wants.

Williams focused on providing evidence to the court that these 11 million+ BTL shares were assets belonging to the company, and that the way Dean Boyce and the Employees Trust benefitted from those shares was through the company. He pointed out that the Government went a step beyond simply acquiring those BTL shares, as it did with all other shares in the company. They acquired the two shares in Sunshine from the Ashcroft outfit, and that’s how they took over the company.

Williams also attempted to show the court that the Government made a mistake, and that it didn’t honor its commitments it had made on behalf of Sunshine that it would pay off the 20 million loan that the Government controlled company owed to both Government and the Social Security Board.

Courtenay, the attorney for Dean Boyce and the BTL Employees Trust, focused instead in proving that these compensation payments to his clients were proper and legally grounded. He also stressed the point that Sunshine did not make the appropriate claim for compensation when the Government opened talks with former shareholders about what they deserve for the acquisition of their property.

From Courtenay’s perspective, which he explained to the press, “This was a bizarre claim, and it was Sunshine, which is owned by the Government, suing the Trust, and suing the Government, seeking to get compensation that had been paid by the Government to the Trust… Why is it that Sunshine never made a claim for compensation? When this acquisition took place in 2009, and was repeated in 2011, Sunshine never made a claim for compensation. It never made a claim for compensation because it would be Sunshine, owned by the Government, claiming from the Government compensation.”

Having listened to both sides for 3 days, Justice Courtney Abel delivered an oral decision 2 hours after the case ended.

In his ruling, which went in the favor of the Alliance and against Sunshine, Justice Abel said, “It seems to me that Sunshine is not seeking to get justice. It is seeking to get a windfall… This court will not allow its process to be used to permit that… This court cannot find that any of the monies paid... have been wrongly made or directed… There is no merit in Sunshine’s claim… The claim is dismissed.”

So, the status quo remains. Sunshine has failed to get the compensation money, it has to pay costs, and it still owes that 20 million-dollar investment loan debt. Since it is government-controlled, that means that it’s a debt that taxpayers owe by extension.