$40 million Arbitration Award for Ashcroft not valid in Belize says Court of Appeals Print E-mail
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Thursday, 09 August 2012 00:00

In December 2010, the Ashcroft Alliance had claimed a major victory against the Government of Belize when it got a judgment by Justice John Muria in the Supreme Court in Belize. The judgment basically gave the Ashcroft Alliance the right to enforce a 40-million-dollar arbitration award, which it was given by the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) on August 20th, 2009. That award was related to the vaunted Accommodation Agreement which saw the former PUP government make numerous concessions to the Ashcroft Alliance. The final award stood at ,843,273.34 as well as 206,248 pounds in arbitration costs and other legal and professional costs amounting to ,960,735.69. The award was to have incurred annual interest at a rate of 3.38% 

The UDP government had always maintained that the Accommodation Agreement went contrary to Belize's national interests and did not even made representation at the tribunal. That allowed for the Alliance to get a judgment against GOB. That however, did not matter as the Ashcroft Alliance proceeded to have the award enforced in Belize and Justice Muria gave them a favourable ruling. The Government of Belize appealed the judgment however, and on August 3rd,  Justices Manuel Sosa, Douglas Mendes and Duke Pollard gave their decision.

In that decision, both Justice Sosa and Pollard agreed with arguments put forward by Senior Counsel Michael Young, who successfully argued that the matter was taken before an international panel based on a treaty called the New York Convention. However, the Convention is not a valid instrument in Belize since it was never ratified. The Convention was extended to Belize by the United Kingdom when Belize was still a colony, but as a sovereign nation after independence, Belize has not yet ratified the convention making it invalid. In fact, the New York Convention was ratified by the United Kingdom on September 24, 1975. There was an Arbitration Amendment Ordinance, which was annexed to the New York Convention  and was assented on October 10th, 1980 and gazetted on October 18th, 1980. The amendment was to take effect on February 24th, 1981 however upon Belize's gaining independence on September 21st, 1981 it did not take steps to ratify the New York Convention.

With those arguments, Justices Sosa and Pollard ruled that the judgment by Justice John Muria in the Supreme Court be set aside meaning that the LCIA arbitration award is not enforceable in Belize.