Choice Bank withdraws lawsuit against Government Print E-mail
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Friday, 24 May 2019 00:00

Choice Bank, the offshore Bank whose license Prime Minister Dean Barrow revoked last year, has withdrawn its lawsuit against the Government. They have conceded before Justice Courtney Abel that their banking operations in Belize were in peril, and that the Government made the right decision by stepping in as the financial regulators.

Readers will remember that in June of 2018, the Central Bank, which regulates all banks in Belize, recommended to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, as the Minister of Finance, that Choice Bank’s license to conduct business on Belizean soil should be revoked. That’s after a Central Bank team went in and assessed the bank’s operations. What they found out was that this offshore bank was struggling to remain financially viable.

So, the Prime Minister revoked their license, and appointed a liquidator to wind down its business operations here, to preserve the value of the bank’s assets, and to pay off its liabilities, including its financial responsibilities to its customers and depositors.

Choice Bank’s shareholders complained that the Government acted prematurely with the revocation. They say that it was illegal, and that they lost money and investments because of the Prime Minister’s actions.

In their lawsuit against the Minister of Finance, the Central Bank, and the Attorney General, the shareholders of Choice Bank were seeking damages from the Government as compensation. The case began before Justice Abel, where an independent valuation of the bank was done by a third party, which both sides agreed upon. That valuation was done to assess the bank’s true financial outlook on the day that the license was revoked.

The final assessment from the third party came back indicating that in fact the bank was in trouble, and that its commercial operations were at risk of failing. The assessment implied that the only course of action available to preserve the bank’s assets was exactly what the Government did.

Choice Bank’s owners, as the claimants of this case, then came to the conclusion that they do not want to proceed with their lawsuit, and they withdrew it. On Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in a hearing before Justice Abel, the two sides agreed to a consent order where Choice Bank’s claim was completely dismissed. The judge finalized that consent order, ending the lawsuit against the government completely.

Outside of court, Joy Grant, the Governor of the Central Bank, told the press, “The claim really was to say that the Central Bank acted unlawfully, and not following the act. We are very pleased today that they withdrew the case because we have always acted in the best interest of depositors, and we continue to do so. So, it’s very good that this has come to this end… The complaint was that in revoking the license, we did not operate under the act and the law. We’ve always held that we have, and that we will continue to do so.”

Eamon Courtenay, who represented Choice Bank’s shareholders in this lawsuit, declined to grant comments to the press on the surprising outcome of the case.