Highlights — 05 November 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Dunkeld freed to seek arbitration over BTL nationalization

Four years after the Government’s appropriation of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), the legal disputes over the nationalization continue unresolved, and on Friday, the Court of Appeal lifted an injunction which previously blocked Dunkeld International Investment Limited from pursing overseas arbitration against the Government of Belize.

Via a notice filed in 2009, Dunkeld, a subsidiary of the Ashcroft-affiliated Hayward Charitable Belize Trust, which claimed to be the beneficial owner of approximately 69% of BTL’s shares, alleged that the Government had breached several obligations emerging out of the United Kingdom-Belize treaty for the Promotion and Protection of Investments dated 30 April 1982.

More specifically, Dunkeld alleged that the Government had “unlawfully expropriated” its investment in BTL, and had “failed to treat Dunkeld fairly and equitably.”

Dunkeld was blocked from pursuing arbitration after the Government of Belize won an injunction from former Supreme Court Justice Samuel Awich. The company filed a second arbitration notice; but was again restrained by the Supreme Court from continuing. Dunkeld later appealed.

On Friday, the Court of Appeal Justices Manuel Sosa, Dennis Morrison and Douglas Mendes, concurred that the injunction should be lifted. They also awarded Dunkeld costs in both the lower court and the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal found that Awich had erred in refusing to hear applications filed by Dunkeld, and claiming that the company was in contempt of the court’s February 2010 order, in pursuing arbitration against the Government of Belize. Awich not only refused to discharge the first injunction; he issued a fresh injunction on May 11, 2011.

Morrison pointed to the fact that while this claim was before the court, the Caribbean Court of Justice had issued a relevant ruling in the dispute between British Caribbean Bank Limited and the Government of Belize, over the US$22.5 million mortgage to BTL which the Government had acquired from the bank when it nationalized the company.

The CCJ had lifted the injunction to bar BCB from continuing with arbitration proceedings against the Government of Belize.

Consequently, both these entities which have filed suits against the Government of Belize – the British Caribbean Bank and Dunkeld—have been freed by courts within Belize’s jurisdiction to proceed with arbitration against the Government.

In its notice, Dunkeld said its claim for damages and losses would be particularized later, but it indicated that the value of the 69% shareholding in BTL would be based on the valuation of BZ$300 – BZ$600 million.

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