High flying Luke Espat “personally liable” to Belize Bank for $29 mil, says court
Belizean businessman and long time PUP crony, Luke Espat, is faced with a monumental $29 million judgment handed down recently by Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel, who ruled in favor of the Belize Bank Limited, a Lord Michael Ashcroft affiliate, in a claim to collect what the bank claims is outstanding debt from Espat. These were loans he had received for various commercial enterprises, among them the popular Crocland, Reptiles Breeders Limited, Indeco, and Ready Mix Concrete.
Espat’s attorney, Said Musa, told Amandala today that he is in the process of preparing an appeal for his client.
Espat’s defense was that the Belize Bank had made material misrepresentations when they induced him to sign a personal guarantee for the companies. According to his attorney, Espat had been assured that the Belize Bank needed the document as a formality to satisfy the Central Bank that they were doing everything possible to collect on the debt.
The guarantee was reportedly signed just before an Ashcroft-affiliated bank, Private Investment Limited (PIL), assumed control of the Port of Belize, another of Espat’s companies.
Amandala understands that the Renaissance Towers, which was recently up for auction, was not included in this recent $29 million judgment – so there are indications that this is not the end of the financial dispute between Espat and the bank.
The Belize Bank foreclosed on the Espat companies back in 2010. Amandala was informed that the debts go way back to 2008, when Espat signed the personal guarantees.
The bank has, meanwhile, been selling off some of the assets, but reporting a shortfall which was not able to cover Espat’s indebtedness fully, the bank then moved to sue Espat personally, including 17% interest on the balance.
An official source had informed our newspaper that among the debts that Indeco Enterprises Limited had acquired with the Belize Bank were mortgages of BZ$500,000 and BZ$2.6 million, both in March 2009. The company which owned Crocland, Belize Crocodiles and Reptiles Breeders Limited had entered into a BZ$854,000 debenture with the Belize Bank back in 2008.
Of note is that Espat’s Port of Belize is still in receivership. In 2012, Belize’s premier commercial port in Belize City, operated by Port of Belize, came under PIL’s control as a result of problems financing a $64 million loan tied to the adjacent Southside cruise port and free zone project, which has been on an extended standstill.
Espat told us when PIL took over the Port that the Belize Bank’s takeover of the Renaissance Towers was part of the settlement plan with his bankers, and they had agreed on the divestment of what was not earning money, while the bank would get to finish the cruise port and Port of Belize continues with the commercial port.