The court found that Elrington had no legal authority to put caution on Progresso Heights’ lands
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 10, 2019– Today was judgment day in the long-running court battle between the development company Progresso Heights Limited and Hon. Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, Belize’s Foreign Minister and area representative for the Pickstock constituency.
Elrington was a no-show in the Supreme Court of Justice Courtenay Abel, who delivered his judgment this afternoon. The court found that Elrington had placed a caution on the properties of the company without any legal authority, and consequently, Elrington was ordered to pay in excess of $300,000, besides cost of court, a figure which has not been mentioned, but could be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
This last battle between Elrington and the Progresso Heights principals Lawrence Schneider and his son Adam played out in dramatic fashion in Justice Abel’s courtroom last month when Elrington, acting as his own attorney, made submissions to the court to the effect that the Progresso Heights company was not properly before the court, and that the video link testimony and statement provided to the court by Lawrence Schneider was not evidence, even though he (Elrington) had cross-examined the witness.
Elrington is a shareholder of Progresso Heights and apparently, the relationship between him and his business partners soured over some land titles that he claimed he did not have. The matter went as far as the Caribbean Court of Justice, and Elrington was ordered to return the land titles.
Following the delivery of today’s judgment, the attorney for Progresso Heights, Eamon Courtenay, S.C., spoke to reporters outside the court.
Courtenay told reporters that Justice Abel had ruled in favor of Progresso Heights and that Elrington had no lawful authority to order the caution against the company’s lands.
“The Belizean people should know that Mr. Elrington placed caution over one hundred parcels of land. The judge said he had no lawful right to do that, and he ordered a $1,000 for each of those parcels of land that a caution had been on. On top of that, he ordered Mr. Elrington to pay US $119,000 for specific loss that the company had suffered,” Courtenay explained, “That comes out to over $300,000 Belize against Mr. Elrington. In addition, he found that he [Elrington] should pay cost to the company.”
Courtenay added, “The court accepted our argument that Mr. Elrington intended to cause economic loss and damage to this company.”
Courtenay went on to explain that they had a witness statement from somebody in the (Lands) Registry, who was going to give evidence, but did not turn up to court. “But her evidence was going to be very clear that Mr. Elrington went to the office and threatened the people in there that they dare not remove the cautions that he had put on the land,” Courtenay said.
“Well, finally, the company has been vindicated; he acted unlawfully and he has now got to pay the price of loss to the company, as well as costs,” Courtenay said.
Courtenay was asked if he thinks that Elrington is going to appeal.
“I would expect that Mr. Elrington is going to appeal. I know in the past, that although he has been advised by eminent counsel that he had no merit in his other cases; he persisted in them. In the CCJ case, we argued that appeal and the CCJ said, give them fifteen minutes, and in fifteen minutes, they returned and ruled in our favor.
“That is the only case I have ever argued in the CCJ where they were able to give a decision immediately,” Courtenay explained.
“Mr. Elrington has a streak of stubbornness that is not based on law, logic or reason. It is an irrational approach to things. He clearly hates Mr. Schneider, the people who own this company, and I do not expect that he will act reasonably. I do not expect that he is going to act rationally. He is going to have another appeal and I will predict that he is going to lose.
“The judge just wrote a 74-page judgment. He [the judge] said that he bent over backwards to rule in such a way that Mr. Elrington could not be found liable for the damages, and he could find none. It was an absolutely roguish behavior of Mr. Elrington,” Courtenay said.
Courtenay said that his clients were just coming out of court, and he said, in reference to what he anticipated their position to be when he speaks to them, “I think they will want us to get an increase in the amount of damages, because it has been a quite long time that they have been able to do any sale of lands. We are going to see if whether we will appeal on the question of damages,” he said.