BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 20, 2019– Prime Minister Dean Barrow was asked to provide an update on the Sanctuary Belize mortgage scam, one of the largest real estate fraud cases in the history of the United States Federal Trade Commission, which has been investigating the matter, and which brought pressure to bear on Atlantic International Bank Limited, resulting in the bank’s closure and subsequent liquidation.
From what has been emerging in the public domain, it is apparent that the United States is pressing for some kind of settlement for its citizens who lost money in the fraudulent retirement housing scheme.
Barrow admitted that Economic Ambassador Mark Espat and Central Bank Governor Joy Grant went to Washington last week in relation to Sanctuary Belize Limited and Atlantic International Bank. In addition, Barrow also confirmed that the United States Chargé d’Affaires took part in a video teleconference between the Cabinet Room in Belize and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington. Espat and Grant were a part of this conversation, speaking from the FTC in Washington.
Barrow said that that took place about two weeks ago. “I had indicated to the FTC, we want to settle the matter. If it’s not for the government or the Central Bank, because if the Central Bank tries to get involved in a commercial settlement, it would lose its immunity from suits and from attachment,” he noted.
Barrow explained that there is now “a liquidator appointed under our law and he is the one who has custody of the matter.” “But government and the Central Bank were invested as interested parties, because we want whatever cloud to be lifted from our jurisdiction,” he said.
Barrow said the next step now is for the FTC to meet with the liquidator, who is the only one who can agree to a settlement.
Barrow said that they are interested in a reasonable settlement. “The assets are limited and the kind of money I hear the FTC talking about is the kind of money that are not available. How can you try to be evenhanded so that the people that the FTC is advocating for can be given some compensation, but that you don’t completely denude the depositors, who as I said to the tune of 80 odd percent?” he remarked.
Barrow was asked if he could dispel allegations of a sovereign guarantee, because the then Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega had gone around to the area of the purported real estate development in the south and the people saw him there, so they thought the government was involved in the project.
Barrow, however, said that they were reading too much into the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Barrow said nobody is looking to the government to levy any kind of charge or to seek any kind of redress. “Really, it is just a matter of trying to get rid of the situation, because there is still some residue of the AIB portfolio projects, loans that other banks may be able to take up. We need to be sure that the FTC will immunize those banks in our jurisdiction,” Barrow explained.
Barrow said it’s (the situation) is complex, and he doesn’t know if it will be sorted out anytime quickly.