BISL goes for injunction; GOB lays preliminary objection
The Government of Belize this week gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court that it will not—for the time being—go after Belize Investment Services Limited (BISL) for the $30 million in tax the company was given in June, when the Government took control of the International Business Corporation (IBC) Registry and the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE), which have been under the control of British billionaire Michael Ashcroft and Panamanian investors with European connections since 1990.
BISL’s attorney, Eamon Courtenay, SC, told our newspaper that the application his client made for an injunction stands; however, the Government has indicated to the court that it would hold off on collection until the injunction application is heard, and until the Government’s preliminary objection is resolved.
That preliminary objection has to do with the stance of the Government that the applicant – in this case BISL of the British Virgin Islands – does not have standing to challenge the tax matter.
Indications to our newspaper are that BISL, at the time it was awarded the contract, was a Belize-registered IBC; however, the suggestion now is, that the company has migrated to the British Virgin Islands. The question of the company’s status to challenge GOB before the court has yet to be resolved.
There was an adjournment on Monday, and no new date has yet been fixed for the hearing.
Courtenay contends, on behalf of BISL, that the tax assessment “is clearly unlawful and arbitrary.”
He told journalists Wednesday that, “the Income and Business Tax [Act] has very coercive powers that are available to the commissioner to deploy against Belize International Services. “
Courtenay said: “What the Income and Business Tax act says is that if the commissioner assesses you to tax, in this case Belize International Services Limited, and you are assessed to thirty million and you want to dispute it, you have to pay the thirty million before you can dispute it; in other words, you have to pay to play and we are saying that is unconstitutional…”
Of note is that BISL also intends to file a lawsuit against the Government for what they claim is a breach of contract.
BISL had said that it would sue for US$60 mil, as it intends to “vigorously defend its contractual rights and pursue its claim for damages to the highest level of the legal system in Belize and will exercise all options available to it to vindicate its rights.”
Whereas the Barrow administration has taken the view that the BISL management contract came to an end on Monday, June 10, BISL has said that it has “a legally enforceable contractual right to operate and manage these two registries on behalf of the Government of Belize until June 2020.”