General — 24 March 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
The CCJ drops interest rate from 17 % to 6% for Belize Bank debt

The rate is for government’s $90 million judgment debt to Belize Bank

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 22, 2018– The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) met at its Port of Spain, Trinidad headquarters yesterday, Wednesday, and via a teleconference hearing between its headquarters and Belize, it handed down a ruling in a government of Belize application for the $90 million judgment debt that was awarded to Belize Bank.

The Government of Belize had filed an application at the court challenging the 17 percent compounded interest rate that the arbitration panel had affixed to the judgment in favor of the Belize Bank. Government had asked the court to lower the interest rate on the judgment to the statutory 6 percent that the laws of Belize call for.

The CCJ’s Hon. Adrian Saunders explained the court’s decision to lower the interest on the $90 million judgment debt.

Justice Saunders said, “This is the application made by the Government of Belize in relation to the post-judgment interest. In the circumstances, this application succeeds. The applicable post-judgment interest is the statutory rate of 6% simple interest from the date of the certificate. Given that the 3 applications were heard together, and we have not yet formed a view on the other 2 applications, the issue of cost is reserved.”

In speaking to the media after the hearing, attorney for the Belize Bank, Eamon Courtenay, S.C., commented, “The court decided today that the interest rate that is applicable is 6%, which is set out in the statute, and not the 17% that was stated in the award, so that that runs from the date of the certificate, which was in November of 2017.”

Courtenay added, “I think one of the things that people should realize is that on the 1st of February, the Bank wrote to the Government of Belize offering 2 things: firstly to accept payment over a period of time in installments, and secondly, to accept payment at the rate of treasury notes that were issued by the Government. My information is that the rate that was payable on those treasury notes was about 3.75% to 5.75%. So, the offer that we had made was at a less interest rate than the court enforcement.

“So, once again, I believe the Belizean people are paying a higher interest rate, 6%, than the Bank was prepared to accept.”

Belize Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, who represented the government at the hearing said, “We made an application on the issue of interest, post-judgment interest. We were arguing that it should be at the rate of 6%, instead of at the rate that was agreed in the award, which was 17% compounded, and the court agreed that since it now has leave to enforce the award, it should be at the rate of 6%. Our position has been vindicated.”

The application for a reduction of the interest rate is one of three applications that the government of Belize had filed at the CCJ. The question which remains is whether or not the CCJ will rule to enforce its judgment against the government, or will it allow Belize’s parliament the opportunity to vote to pay the judgment award.

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