I know that the United Kingdom in August of 1870 offered to sell the whole of British Honduras to the Republic of Mexico. There is a letter from the British Foreign Secretary, Earl Granville, asking the Government of Mexico to bid for the sale. The Mexicans offered only $4,000,000.00 for our country so the deal fell through.
Sebastian Lerdo de Tejeda
Minister of the Mexican Foreign Affairs
To: Whom ever may concern in the British Government
Date: September 6th, 1870
We’d like to begin by thanking you for your offer in selling us British Honduras. We indeed are interested in buying the territory. So we propose to you the following terms.
It is from this perspective that the Puerto Azul Ponzi scheme fiasco has caused me much trepidation when I heard that the Italian con man, Domencio Giannini, who was the mastermind behind the elaborate scam, is reported to have said that he had purchased our Great Blue Hole from the Government of Belize. These gangsters have expended a huge effort in perpetrating this scam. In May of 2014 they invited 140 billionaires to a party in Cannes, France, to raise funds for this Puerto Azul 8 star resort. The cost of a ticket to the gala was US$10,000.00. There is only one 8 star resort hotel in the world, which is in Dubai Arab Emirates; their GDP is 570 billion dollars. The second 8 star resort hotel would have been in Belize: our GDP is 1.6 billion dollars – Please! Give me a break.
As chairman of the British Honduras Freedom Committee of New York, I was tasked to investigate a few of these scams perpetrated on and in Belize. I will reflect on two of these which occurred in the 1970s.
On May 25, 1971, The Wall Street Journal published a series of articles on the Ponzi scheme undertaken by the Noe brothers – Dr. Clifford Dixon Noe and Paul Noe, both Americans from Texas. They had set up a shell company in Belize called the Insurance Companies of the Americas, Ltd. The company was located in the rear of the “basement” of the old Palace Hotel on North Front Street, a one-room office with a teletype machine and a typewriter, the headquarters of a $30,000,000.00 US Ponzi scheme. The article was written by the Journal’s staff reporter, Mr. Jonathan Kwitny.
In Belize I did all the research I needed to complement his US research. We both did our London research when Dr. Noe was implementing his scheme in some London-based banks, notably the banking firm of E. H. Marley & Partners, Ltd., where the managing director was Major Edwin Henry Marley.
In Belize the Noes used a bookkeeper named Oscar Hilton and listed him as a graduate of the London School of Accounting. Mr. Hilton had certified that the millions worth of fake stocks and bonds were genuine and which Noe tried to pass off to Major Marley for shares in his bank. I had taken a handful of these fake documents with me to London.
I made an appointment to meet Jonathan Kwitny, and we sat in one of the many conference rooms of The Wall Street Journal to discuss the shell game. I realized that he was carefully avoiding sharing information he had. I did not know at the time that he was writing a book on the story which he called “The Fountain Pen Conspiracy.” Finally he told me, “Why don’t you go ask Scotland Yard?” I took his advice and when I finally reached New Scotland Yard, it turned out that it was I who was providing them with information.
When I arrived in London I went to see Major Marley, who was glad to see me. He said to me, “They came in here telling me not to worry because ‘we have the government of British Honduras in our pockets.’” He then gave me a photograph of the group which included Dr. Noe and a Minister of the Belize government who is still alive today (there is always a photograph of opportunity at these fake ventures), and made an appointment for me at New Scotland Yard to consult with the two agents who were investigating the case.
When the two agents came to Belize, in secret, the only person who raised a question was the late Ray Lightburn of The Belize Times, who was at the Fort George Hotel bar and he overheard my name being mentioned and wondered publicly in his newspaper what it was all about.
When in Belize, Dr. Noe stayed at a boarding house across from St. Mary’s School, a short distance from the Palace Hotel and Binar’s Restaurant (across from Spooner’s), where he had his meals on credit. According to my friend and St. Michael’s College schoolmate, the late Sir Albert Staine, who was a prosecutor at that time, Mr. Garbutt of Binar’s had to sue Noe for the payment of those meals; there was a police case which was never resolved.
According to Major Marley, in London he dined at a 5 star restaurant, the Omar Khayyam, running up a tab of over $1,000.00 and billed it to his bank. When I went around to the Omar Khayyam to take a photograph, all I could see were Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris parked outside.
On October 24, 1972, Dr. Clifford Noe was sentenced to seven years in gaol by the judge at the Old Bailey in London after he explained that Dr. Noe was “an international swindler at the highest level”. I was tickled when I read that the prosecutor told the judge of the several charges, one of which he was accused of running a multimillion dollar scheme from the “office” in a doss-house (The Palace Hotel) in Belize City.
(To be continued!)