General — 03 June 2017 — by Adele Ramos
GOB does not intend to pay multi-million-dollar Newco award

BELIZE CITY, Wed. May 31, 2017–Financial Secretary Joseph Waight told Amandala today that the Government of Belize “does not intend to pay” the arbitral award handed down several years ago in favor of Newco, a company which had been granted a long-term concession to run the Philip Goldson International Airport, with the deal later aborted by the Musa administration in favor of Belizean investors who were connected with members of the then administration.

Official sources tell us that the tab is now in the region of US$6.5 or US$7 million due to interest accruing on the unpaid award.

This January, the US Court of Appeal refused to hear a request from the Government of Belize to quash the US$4.26 million arbitral award in favor of Newco, while it also refused to hear the Government’s challenge to other arbitral awards in favor of companies connected with British billionaire Michael Ashcroft.

According to Waight, the owners of that company would have to come to Belize for enforcement—not the US—and when they do, the Government, which has claimed that the company owes in excess of $5 million in taxes, would launch counterclaims.

As for the proceedings which were launched in the US, where arbitration was first held, Waight said that he expects that the company will seek an enforcement order from US courts against Belize, and he expects that they will get that order; but, he said, Belize has no assets in the US for them to enforce against.

The Belize government contends that the country’s foreign reserves, held by the Central Bank of Belize in the US, are protected from seizure to settle such awards.

“It would be a paper order,” said Waight, adding that the Newco order would fall in the same category as the order handed down against Belize and in favor of the Ashcroft group.

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