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Hon. Hugo Patt sues

GeneralHon. Hugo Patt sues

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 19, 2022 — Reports are that the Hon. Hugo Patt, area representative for Corozal North and deputy leader of the United Democratic Party, has initiated a lawsuit against the findings and recommendations published by the Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Andrew Marshalleck, that reviewed the sale of public assets at below-market prices to persons closely associated with the UDP administration in the months prior to the November 2020 general elections. As we reported last week, the Commission’s report recommended that Patt be criminally investigated to determine whether there was anything illegal in the transactions connected to his acquisition of a Toyota Tacoma which was allegedly financed by a Chinese businessman, Zhourong Li, who reportedly had received land documents via the Lands Ministry headed at the time by Patt.

According to 7News, Patt has retained the services of former Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow. Interestingly, Barrow was also interviewed by the Commission of Inquiry, and in the report the members of the commission referred to Barrow’s role in the approval process prior to the sales of the assets as an “unbridled exercise of power” that was carried out in apparent disregard of the laws in the Finance and Audit Reform Act and the Financial and Stores Orders that govern the sale of assets.

Their initial legal efforts are aimed at getting the Supreme Court to grant them leave for their application for a judicial review claim against the commission to be heard. Included with this application is a request for an interim injunction that would prevent the current Briceño administration from taking steps to initiate a criminal investigation into Patt’s dealings with Li—a hold on the investigation that could last until the conclusion of Patt’s lawsuit. (It is to be noted that Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño had indicated that the findings of the Commission of Inquiry had been handed over to the offices of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecution.)

Patt and Barrow’s application to the court reportedly presents three reasons that the leave should be granted so that they can proceed with their judicial review claim. These include an assertion that the members of the Commission of Inquiry were not impartial, but harbored biases that tainted their review process and their subsequent findings, as well as Patt’s claim that his constitutional rights and his rights to natural justice were violated.

In addition, Patt is objecting to the fact that he was not given the chance to offer a defense of his actions prior to the publication of the findings of the commission.

Reportedly, an additional argument that was made is that the Commission of Inquiry went beyond its authority and designated role when it recommended a criminal investigation into Patt’s dealings.

When asked by reporters to comment on Patt’s efforts to get the Supreme Court to effectively overturn the recommendations of the commission and halt any efforts to criminally investigate Patt’s actions, Prime Minister Briceño said, “Well, I think they want to bury that report, so they want now go to court. They should be ashamed. They should allow the process to follow. If you feel you didn’t do anything wrong, then you can go and write that, but it’s typical UDP—they speak from both sides of the mouth. They talk about openness and transparency, and from the next mouth they say, ‘if you deal with me, we have to stop it, we have to hide it’, and they want to go and stop it at the court. What are they afraid of?”

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