In the courtroom of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin this morning, Senior Counsel Michael Young said that the Belize Social Security Board (SSB) should be paid ASAP the $15,141,739 which the court had ordered Sunshine Holdings to pay the SSB back in 2011, to compensate for its default on a $10 million loan which it had acquired from the Social Security Board to purchase BTL shares.
Dean Boyce, the lead director/trustee for Sunshine Holdings Limited – whose shares the Barrow administration acquired with the nationalization of Belize Telemedia Limited in 2009 – has asked the court for a stay on the court’s order for the payment of the debt.
Sunshine/Boyce is being represented in court by Lord Peter Goldsmith. Sunshine has indicated that the settlement of the debt should be stayed pending an imminent judgment by the Court of Appeal on the BTL nationalization, as well as hearings anticipated at the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Young told the court that SSB should receive its money, without the stay being granted and without any delay to wait for that court battle to be finally resolved. SSB cannot wait for the disputes to conclude and the dust settled before enjoying the fruits of the court judgment in its favour, Young said, adding that the role of the SSB is to jealously guard and protect the funds of contributors.
The SSB loan in question was issued by the SSB in 2005, under the Musa administration. Eight directors voted in favour and one – the representative of the private sector – voted a resounding no, Young told the court. The shares purchased by Sunshine were to be held in trust for BTL workers; however, BTL workers never received those shares.
Under the agreement with the SSB, the dividends from the BTL shares should have paid for the loan. Since there was a 5-year grace period on repayment, the first payment on the loan was due in October 2010, but Sunshine fell into default. SSB won judgment in its favour in 2011.
In court today, Young said that Sunshine admitted to the debt, so what the court did was enter judgment on admission.
Referring to the loan note, Young said, “If you look at the signature there, it is a unique signature – perhaps even like a fingerprint. It is Dean Boyce’s. One does not need to be a handwriting expert to see that is the same signature that is on the affidavit of Mr. Boyce, signed and sworn and filed in respect of these proceedings.”
Young noted that under the contract with SSB, all payments were agreed to be made without regard to any equities or right of set-off or counterclaims for payments.
This suggests that the SSB would resist proposals for set-off against any possible settlements to former BTL shareholders for the acquisition of the company by the Government of Belize.
The Court of Appeal decision on the BTL nationalization is expected shortly.