The PUP is not deterred by threatening letters from Barrow’s law firm, Barrow and Williams
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 18, 2019– The newly designed interior of Independence Hall came alive this morning when the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) parliamentarians and standard bearers packed inside for a press conference.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño called the press conference to elaborate on the Sanctuary Belize Enterprise (SBE) scandal that has rocked the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow when the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made damning allegations in a court document it filed in opposition to the removal of the bankruptcy case of Atlantic Bank International Limited (ABIL) from the US to the Belize jurisdiction.
Both Prime Minister Barrow and his law firm, Barrow and Williams, were mentioned in the FTC’s 50-page court submission.
Following the Prime Minister’s press conference on July 10, the Barrow and Williams law firm dispatched a letter to “all media houses” on July 12, “Re Any intended broadcast or publication of Federal Trade Commission Statement in relation to the Rt. Honorable Dean Barrow.”
The Opposition media house, Vibes Media, however, was not deterred by the letter from the Prime Minister’s law firm. In their morning show “The Whip,” co-host and PUP operative Vaughan “The Agent” Gill was unsparing in his criticism of the Prime Minister.
Gill’s remarks resulted in not one, but two letters threatening lawsuits from the Barrow and Williams law firm.
It is against that backdrop that the Leader of the Opposition called his press conference today, at which the Caribbean Shores area representative, Hon. Kareem Musa, also made a presentation on the Sanctuary Belize scandal, the largest in the FTC’s history.
Hon. Briceno, in his remarks, said “Our country is wallowing in morass of moral and social decay. “Our Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet, as well as other political appointees, are named by the United States Federal Trade Commission of not only being aware, but possibly being involved in the biggest fraud and money laundering scheme in the history of the FTC.”
“Never before has any Government of Belize been so disgraced,” Hon. Briceno offered, “Never before has the integrity of so many cabinet ministers been called into question. Never before has our Central Bank been brought into such disrepute.”
Hon. Briceno said Dean Barrow and his action have brought shame on our entire nation and has put the banking and financial services of this nation in jeopardy.
“Choice Bank collapsed and Atlantic Bank International crashed as a result of this Sanctuary Belize corruption saga. A third bank is indicating that it no longer desires doing business in Belize today,” Hon. Briceno said.
“The Prime Minister has shown no concern for these matters; he has called a press conference to try and rescue his tarnished image, unsuccessfully. Our nation is on a downward spiral and all our Prime Minister is concerned about is his reputation. What about the reputation of our country?” he said.
Hon. Briceno said the US State Department, in its report to the US Congress, has described our country as a major money laundering jurisdiction.
Where is the denial, where is the disclaimer, where is the threat to sue? Hon Briceno asked.
“The Sanctuary Bay scandal is a fact. Over $100 million US dollars were swindled. That is a fact. The swindlers used Atlantic Bank International, that is a fact. They sold 1,400 lots of Belizean land for hundreds of thousands of dollars each, that is a fact,” Hon. Briceno said.
Adding, UDP Senator Aldo Salazar is named as representing Sanctuary Belize and Atlantic Bank International, that is a fact.
Hon. Briceno went on to say that the former Central Bank Governor Glenford Ysaguirre put in writing that there was massive fraud surrounding this project; that is a fact. The FTC document pointed out that neither the Central Bank nor any other Belizean institution did anything to contain the massive fraud, which continued unabated.
How could the Prime Minister of Belize not know that the Central Bank had alerted the FIU about massive fraud and money laundering that was occurring at Sanctuary Bay, the Party Leader asked.
Hon Briceno said it is a scandal that has brought shame to our country.
“Mr. Barrow, Sanctuary Bay is your UDP Government scandal; your law firm represented them. You can’t run away from this, you can’t use big words to explain this away,” he said.
Hon. Kareem Musa, the PUP’s shadow minister for legal affairs, said he had three questions for Mr. Barrow – why are you trying to shut down the media? Why did you settle with the United States Federal Commission? What is in the Sanctuary Bay settlement?
Hon. Musa described the FTC allegations as “very bold,” and he (the Prime Minister) is not going to sue them for their defamatory remarks from their investigation and comments about the Prime Minister and his law firm, and his UDP cronies. If all of these things contained in this 50-page document are lies, and all of it is bogus, why settle it? Hon. Musa asked.
Hon. Musa said that when the Sanctuary Bay scandal broke, the Prime Minister called it a private matter, so why did he settle with them? Why is he, to this day, keeping the settlement a secret, he asked.
Hon. Musa said new Belizean voters were 8 years old when Dean Barrow came into power; it is important that I tell them about his promised transparency and accountability. We remember those words, because they came like cockroaches out of the mouth of a man lusting for power. He said he had a machete sharpened on both sides to cut off the head of corruption, when it reared its ugly head.
Hon. Musa said that the FTC document is a catalogue of how the Belize government is involved in the scam, and if this document was not leaked, we would still be in the dark.
Quoting from page 24 of the FTC document, Hon. Musa read that the Central Bank turned a blind eye to evidence of massive fraud.
“It goes on to state that the FTC is facing a government and an adjudicating authority which is involved with the scam, that the Central Bank will do whatever it does, apparently, largely in secret,” Hon. Musa said; “that is how the FTC has characterized the scam.”
Hon. Musa added, isn’t it so ironic that the same law firm, Barrow and Williams, muzzling the media is the same one that formed the company Sanctuary Bay, and the same law firm that performed legal work for Sanctuary Bay now has the nerve to write a letter to stab our democracy in the back?
Hon. Musa cited the 1972 Watergate burglary, saying that it was not the burglary; it was the cover-up of the burglary that made the American people realize that their president had betrayed them.
A few weeks ago the prime minister and the UDP government cut a deal with the FTC to settle the Sanctuary Bay scam. We are told it involves hundreds of millions of dollars, but yet the settlement remains a big secret. A couple of weeks ago our party leader made a public call for an investigation into the 30 million dollars in GST taxes owed by BTL. So far the response from this prime minister and government has been nada, Musa said.
When it comes to the small woman and man, the law will come at you like a ton of bricks; when it comes to the grassroots people, GST will find every shilling in your pocket. When it comes to the UDP-protected BTL, there is nothing to see there.
Hon. Musa went on to explain that he got a document which is a fiscal incentive that was granted to Sanctuary Bay in 2011, and it claims that Sanctuary Bay would result in losses to the country of Belize amounting to 15 million dollars, nine hundred and eighty six thousand dollars from scam artists that were running a Ponzi scheme in Belize.
Once again we have proof that the government facilitated Sanctuary Bay. We are living in a state of lies; the government is corrupt, Musa said.
Hon. Briceno challenged the media, saying that as the Fourth Estate of Government, “you have a duty to do the investigation into the biggest scandal that this country has ever had.”
Hon. Musa said that the Governor of the Central Bank, Joy Grant, was negligent and needed to resign or be fired, because she got information about the scam and did nothing.
Hon. Briceno, in answer to a question about Vibes Media being sent a letter from Barrow and Williams law firm threatening a lawsuit, replied: “We have been sent letters telling us that we will be sued unless we offer some kind of apology, but we are waiting for our day in court. Our lawyers would love to have him (Barrow) on the dock. We would be able to ask him all of the questions that we want to ask him, and then let’s see what he will do when we go to court.”