Another PUP Secret Deal!!! Said Musa and Francis Fonseca signed it! Print E-mail
( 2 Votes )
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00

Prime Minister Hon. Dean BarrowIt would appear that the misdeeds of the past PUP administration will continue to haunt the Belizean people for an undetermined amount of time. This became evident as Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow once again exposed the past PUP leader and Prime Minister Said Musa and the current PUP Leader Francis Fonseca for having signed yet another secret agreement with Ashcroft-related interests.

PM Barrow called a press conference on Wednesday, June 12th following the Government of Belize’s taking over the International Business Companies Registry and the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE) on Monday, June 10th. The companies registry, through various agents sets up offshore companies in Belize. IMMARBE for its part registers foreign sea vessels in Belize so they are able to fly the Belizean flag.

 The Government moved to take control of the companies on Monday, June 10th after the expiration of an existing contract, which allowed the two companies to be under control of Belize International Services Limited (BISL), an Ashcroft-related company. The Government wrote to BISL informing them of this, only to be told that there was a contract between the Government and them that extended into 2020. Prime Minister Barrow stated during the press conference that, despite best efforts to locate the contract, it was unsuccessful and only came upon a copy after it was furnished by BISL.

The History
The Prime Minister explained that the relationship between the Government of Belize and BISL, which is a joint venture between a group of attorneys from Panama: Morgan and Morgan and originally Belize Holdings Inc., later on BCB holdings began in 1990. At the time, the Government had signed on to an agreement for Belize Holdings to manage both IMMARBE and the International Business Companies Registry for a period of 10 years. Three years later, on the eve of a general elections in 1993, that contract was extended for a period of 10 years. By June 9th, 2003 the legal advisor in the Ministry of Finance, Gian Ghandi had written to BISL that because of fundamental changes in circumstances since the agreement was signed in 1993, they could no longer renew their contract to manage the companies for 10 years. Despite the legal opinion to the contrary, the then Prime Minister, Said Musa gave BISL the option to renew for 10 more years taking them to 2013.   

Secret Agreement
But that being bad enough, in 2005, a secret agreement was signed with BISL, Said Musa as Prime Minister and Francis Fonseca as Attorney General, which validated the option to extend the agreement into 2013 and further added 7 more years to the contract taking it up to 2020 for a consideration of $1.5 million U.S. P.M. Barrow said that the money was received but the contract was nowhere to be found. That then made it a Secret Agreement and would have never made it out in the public had the Government not chosen to take over IMMARBE and the Offshore Companies Registry. The P.M. added that he has made checks with persons, who were in Cabinet at the time of the signing of the agreement and all agree that it was never brought to Cabinet.

Government's position now is that the Secret Agreement is invalid as it goes contrary to the Financial and Audit Act, the Financial Orders, the Stores Orders and the Expenditure Act. And it must be, since the agreement is almost of a carbon copy of the type of agreements which Ashcroft was accustomed to getting under the PUP. According to the Prime Minister, the 1993 Master Agreement exempts BISL from paying taxes which up to the present date has accrued around $30 million. It further has it that IMMARBE would not be subject to any measure of performance and it could not be held liable for any failure to provide all or any of the services of the agreement. Then those representing the company would be given consular status in the parts of the world where they operated and exclusivity was also guaranteed to them. Then, there was the issue of inspection of records which was subject to constraints.

Unfair Financial Arrangement
The extraordinary concessions given to the companies aside, there has always been problems with the distribution of income from the registering of boats and companies. According to the Prime Minister, BISL received 64 percent of every dollar in revenue while the Government received a token 36%. It definitely seemed out of proportion but now that is coming to an end with Government assuming full control of both companies.

With Government in control, Marion Palacio has been named as the Interim Registrar and the transition has gone without incident. No one will lose their jobs, stated the Prime Minister and the company will remain in Government's control. Even so, however, there have been files and hardware that has been removed from the offices which the PM says will not be much of a problem as Government assumes control.

Problems with Companies
What has been a problem, however, is the fact that because the vessels that are registered in Belize have not been regulated, in particular the fishing fleet, these have run afoul of the European Union, which has threatened to ban Belize's marine products from entering into that market if Government does not do something about the manner in which vessels which use the Belizean flags operate in that jurisdiction. Prime Minister Barrow pointed out to a European Commission mission to Belize which found that in respect to IMMARBE, Belize was failing to fulfill fishing obligations in that zone. In response to the EU's threat which looms heavy over an entire sector of commerce in the country, the Prime Minister noted that Government is prepared to go as far as de-registering the fishing fleet even if it is as a last resort to ensure that the marine product industry is secure. He said that currently there are 875 vessels registered under IMMARBE, and of those, 129 are fishing vessels so the company would still be viable if these are not registered.    

IMMARBE's international problems are also mirrored in the International Business Companies Registry, which has also called the attention of the International Financial Services Commission, a local institution set up to protect against illicit activity in the offshore banking industry in particular money laundering.

These issues are now expected to be resolved and the Prime Minister explained that the Government is doing the right thing legally, morally economically and politically.