He said that the $400,000 lawsuit was simply a way for the former Barrow administration to “throw dirt” on Sharon Pitts’
BELIZE CITY, Fri. Aug. 8, 2022
The proceedings of GoB’s lawsuit against attorney Sharon Pitts (who, along with Andre Vega, son of former Minister of Lands, Gaspar Vega, had been ordered in 2016 by the Office of the Solicitor General to repay $400,000 of compensation awarded to each of them for privately owned lands that had been sold to them in a shady transaction) came to an end last week when final arguments and submissions were made to the trial judge, Justice Lisa Shoman.
Pitts is being sued by the government of Belize for compensation that she received from government for over 1.5 acres of property near the Haulover Bridge that she had bought from GoB for $10,569 but that was allegedly already owned by one Miguel Valencia.
The land adjoined a parcel sold to Andre Vega, son of former Lands Minister Gaspar Vega. He too was compensated upward of $400,000 for his parcel of land in what turned out to be a scandal that led to the older Vega’s resignation from the UDP Cabinet during the Barrow administration.
In December of 2016 the Solicitor General had filed a lawsuit against the duo. While Vega had been initially ordered by the Supreme Court to repay the $400,000, but appealed that ruling, which was overturned by the Court of Appeal earlier this year, the case against Pitts has just reached its conclusion, and judgment, which will be handed down by Justice Lisa Shoman, has been reserved for a later date.
In defence of his client, Pitts’ attorney, Hubert Elrington, told local reporters that the Attorney General’s office produced no evidence that Pitts behaved improperly at any point in the process: “Where is the evidence? I was here to see the evidence. I know evidence when I see it, but there was
no evidence here today, so I feel very confident that this was only throwing dirt at Ms. Pitts,” he said.
Elrington further asserted that Pitts behaved with “rectitude and honestly from the very beginning to the very end.”
During a Friday afternoon interview following the proceedings, he said, “In my view, the claimant, the Attorney General, had to prove certain facts, and he fell far short of proving the facts.”
He went on to refer to members of the previous UDP administration, who he said brought this lawsuit against Pitts just to “throw dirt” on his client’s name, as “a bunch of crooks.”
According to a senior lands officer, however, Pitts had foreknowledge that the land was owned and went ahead with the purchase. Jerjett Gutierrez testified that a letter informing Pits that the land was owned was sent by the Minister at the time — but Pitts has denied ever receiving such a letter.
“The trial judge said to the surveyor, ‘Would you say that you have abdicated your responsibility in that you had not found out the truth? So you can advise your client what the truth was, and he said ‘No, I had not abdicated my responsibility. I had been told by the landowner that they would go and make sure themselves. They were not even going to depend on me to go and make sure; they themselves were going to make sure, and they came back themselves and said the land is available; see it here, Ms. Pitts, we can give it to you.’ That’s the case.” Elrington argued.
In addition to his claim that the UDP had brought the lawsuit in an attempt to besmirch Pitts’ reputation, Elrington further remarked, in regard to the UDP, “You should not, especially the UDP, for all that Pitts has done for them, they should not be quick to try and destroy or damage her reputation, but that’s their nature, nuh…”
He then added, “I am saying that they are a bunch of crooks is what I’m saying. You can’t say it more than me, because I was there; I was there with them, and I will say it.”
In 2016, the AMANDALA had received leaked documents from the Department of Lands which revealed that Vega and Pitts had received privately-owned land at Mile 5 on the Philip Goldson Highway, near the Haulover Bridge, and the newspaper had gone public with that story. A subsequent AMANDALA article had noted something else that had been revealed in the documents — “that on at least two occasions, public officers pointed out to higher-ups in the Ministry that the said land was already privately owned, and in fact, the Lands Commissioner had given instructions to revoke Pitts’ permission to survey the land.”
Pitts subsequently received her title, and a title for an adjoining parcel of land (1,124 acres) was sold to Gaspar Vega’s campaign manager, Hilmar Alamilla (who is now jailed on a charge of murder) at a reported price of $2,500. Alamilla then sold his parcel to Vega’s son, Andre Vega, for $15,000.
The Government of Belize then had to re-repurchase these privately- owned plots of land from Vega and Pitts at a price of $400,000 each.