Headline — 17 November 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
The “fishy” sale of PSU headquarters land!

The PUP says the hurried sale of PSU land by the UDP council “reeks of corruption”

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 15, 2018– The sale of the Hilltop property which has been the headquarters of the Public Service Union (PSU) for the past 17 years is looking fishy, with the Belmopan City Council insisting that the sale is final and the union continuing to maintain that they “shall not be moved.”

It had been revealed that Xin Ni, the owner of the newly formed company which purchased the PSU property, who had listed his address at the Belize Company Registry as being No. 38 Santa Rita Layout, Corozal District, had apparently falsified his address, because the person who lives at that address posted on social media that the address belongs to Amelio Lizarraga Cal, Jr., JP.

Cal said that he lives at the address with his mother and family. Ironically, Cal also said in his Facebook post that he is vice-chair of the PSU Corozal branch, and at no time has any Asian person lived at the said address.

Cal said hopefully an error was made in the listing of the address, or maybe there is another No. 38 Santa Rita Road.

Belmopan mayor Khalid Belisle, during a press conference on Tuesday, left many unanswered questions. At the press conference, Mayor Belisle said that a meeting was scheduled to take place yesterday, Wednesday, between himself and the president of the PSU, Dareth Cayetano-Obermayer.

In a telephone interview with our newspaper, however, Obermayer said that she had no knowledge of a meeting with the Belmopan mayor, and neither was such a meeting given the nod of approval from the union’s membership or council of management.

As it stands, the PSU is at loggerheads with the Belmopan City Council over the sale.

Obermayer told us that the day before the sale was finalized, on October 9, she and a member of the union’s council of management had met with the City Administrator, Ralston Fraser. They had gone to ask him how they could continue the process of paying for the property. Obermayer explained that Fraser did not once indicate to them that the sale of their property would have been finalized the following day, October 10.

 The sale of the PSU Hilltop property to Simplex Design Co. Ltd, a company that was less than a day old when it paid $400,000 to the cash-strapped Belmopan City Council, has been described by the Opposition, People’s United Party, in a press release, as “UDP corruption.”

The PUP press release said, “The admission by Belmopan Mayor Khalid Belisle that the Belmopan City Council sold the Hilltop Property that was leased to and is the Headquarters of the Public Services Union (PSU) to a Simplex Design Co. Ltd., owned by one Xin Ni for a gross undervalue, is a clear case of misfeasance in public office. The sale of the property, valued at more than $750,000 for $400,000 reeks of UDP corruption.”

The PUP, in their press release, said that the mayor and councilors of the Belmopan City Council have to explain to the residents of Belmopan and the Belizean people, “why public property was sold to a Corozal businessman so quickly, in secret, and at such an obscenely low price.”

The PUP, in their press release, posed a number of questions. The PUP wanted to know who Xin Ni of 38 Santa Rita Layout, Corozal Town, is, and “his connection to Mayor Belisle and the UDP”; why he was getting “such special treatment that he can acquire and purchase prime property in Belmopan so quickly”; and why, since the property was valued at $750,000, “did the Council not put the property on the open market to fetch the fair market value, which the mayor admitted was valued at more than $750,000.”

The PUP said the transaction was concluded behind closed doors in a “secretive clandestine manner”; that it “reeks of corruption”; that it “is the ultimate UDP sweetheart deal.”

The PUP release ends, saying: “The People’s United Party demands the immediate cancellation of the sale and the return of the property to the PSU.”

Obermayer told us that during the tenure of Belmopan mayor Anthony Chanona, the Belmopan City Council had agreed to credit the union with $227,271.30 for improvements and other considerations towards the value of the property.

The PSU president said the paperwork from Mayor Chanona has been passed on to the attorney who will represent the union in this matter.

Obermayer insists that Mayor Belisle got it wrong when he stated that the PSU had offered the City Council $187,000, after the property was revalued at over $500,000.

$187,728.70 represents the April 2000 valuation of $415,000, less the considerations given to the PSU by Mayor Chanona and the Belmopan City Council, Obermayer explained.

We asked Obermayer to comment on the allegation made by the Belmopan Mayor that the PSU was not paying the lease.

“We have been paying the lease, until they stopped collecting it in 2010,” Obermayer said.

Obermayer said the PSU will put together a team to meet with their attorney, after which their membership and the public will be informed of the way forward.

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Deshawn Swasey

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