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Government concerned about Belize’s image, after FTC exposes Sanctuary Belize scam

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 22, 2018– Belize, it appears, is suffering major international embarrassment after the Sanctuary Belize real estate scam was exposed by the United States’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the story took on a life of its own when it was picked up by several US mainstream media outlets. On Tuesday, Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia, Jr., said that Prime Minister Dean Barrow will most likely call a press conference to express government’s position on the matter.

The private real estate investment scheme that was advertised as “Sanctuary Belize”, which has bilked scores of United States citizens out of millions of dollars, and which the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had to close down on Thursday, November 8, after its investigation revealed that it was a scam, will be discussed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow at a press conference which has not yet been scheduled, Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia, Jr., announced on Tuesday.

Sanctuary Belize, which also was marketed under other names, one of these being “Sittee River Wildlife Reserve,” has been listed by the FTC as the biggest real estate fraud it has uncovered in its history, and for the first time, an international bank has been named in court papers that the FTC has filed on behalf of around two dozen complainants in the US. The scam has also spawned lawsuits in Belize’s jurisdiction from jilted investors.

The dream homes that the Sanctuary Belize investment in southern Belize promised to its investors turned out to be a nightmare, resembling the 2017 failed Puerto Azul project in which investors were conned out of millions of dollars.

The man behind the Sanctuary Belize scam is Andres Pukke, a repeat violator of FCC rules and regulations, who is a felon who operated his scam from behind prison walls in the US. After coming on stream about 15 years ago, Sanctuary Belize is in need of about 500 million dollars, the FTC estimated.

Minister Heredia remarked, “As a government we are very concerned about this situation. From day one when I took over there was the Sueño del Mar deal, so we are more cautious with investors. There is a subcommittee of Cabinet that looks at projects now. We require a certain percentage, I believe it is fifteen percent of the total amount, to be deposited in Central Bank before moving forward. That is the situation with Blackadore, that project over there. They have not been able to come up with the fifteen percent. They have the green light to start tomorrow if they would put that fifteen percent. So, we are more cautious because we know, we certainly know that in the world you will find all different types of people, and it is not very easy to monitor these types of things. But yes, we are concerned. It can create a black eye for Belize…There are many things that can keep you back if you are not cautious in what you are doing…we are very concerned as a government about that.”

Minister Heredia was asked if the Cabinet has discussed Sanctuary Belize.

“Yes, I believe that the Prime Minister was supposed to have done a press conference, or is about to do a press conference, I think this week, in regards to what Central Bank is doing, what government is doing. I am sure he will have a press conference shortly to tell the Belizean people where we are, what we are doing and what we think should be done,” said Minister Heredia.

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