“The Montero family has been compensated by the taxpayers of this country a grand total of $3,147,683,” said Hon. John Briceño
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 1, 2018– Hon. John Briceño, the leader of the People’s United Party, at a media briefing this afternoon at his Belize City office, highlighted another obscene land compensation scheme which benefited Minister of Works Rene Montero’s family to the tune of over 3 million dollars from the public purse.
While the last land compensation scam, for which there has not been a definitive settlement, saw the government pay out a whopping $800,000 to Andre Vega, son of the former Natural Resource Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Gaspar “Gapi” Vega, and UDP “first family” attorney Sharon Pitts, the new land compensation scheme uncovered by the Opposition benefited relatives of Minister Rene Montero, Minister of Works.
Briceño remarked that “under Gaspar Vega, over 70 million dollars has been paid out as land compensation. I can tell you that the time I was there at the ministry for 9 years, we paid out about 23 million dollars for the entire time I was there as Minister of Natural Resources. In one year alone, Gaspar Vega paid out close to 20 million dollars in compensation.”
Briceño added, “And we knew it was a scam. These compensations were something that we are told was approved by the Cabinet. The Cabinet from day one knew exactly what was taking place in the Ministry of Natural Resources, because it included some of their own colleagues that sit around that table, and the Prime Minister, as the Minister of Finance, knew who are the people who are being paid, because every month the Ministry of Natural Resources sends a list to the Minister of Finance, listing out who are the people that are on and how much they are going to be paid for that month.
“So the Prime Minister cannot claim that he did not know. Every month the Ministry of Natural Resources has to make a submission, and then the Ministry of Finance had to sign off on that for the payments to be made.”
Briceño said that they have been able to pinpoint 11 compensations that were paid out in 2011 to the family of Minister Montero, whose CEO is Errol Gentle.
He listed the following: “Yvette Montero [the daughter of Minister Montero] got 7 acres of land six miles north of Ambergris Caye and she paid $3,080 for it. Minister Vega, the Deputy Prime Minister, and approved by the Ministry of Finance, agreed to compensate Yvette Montero with $245,000.
“Miguel Montero [a brother of Minister Montero] got 10 acres of land, again northwest of San Pedro, for $4,400; 4 acres of land northwest of San Pedro for $1,760; and 20 acres of land at Prevassion in the Mountain Pine Ridge for $4,428. For those three parcels of land Miguel Montero was compensated $721,000.
“Ismael Montero [a brother of Minister Montero] got 10.2 acres of land in Prevassion enclave, Mountain Pine Ridge for $2,220, and he was compensated $82,352 for that parcel of land.
“Yvette Montero again, got 10 acres of land in the Prevassion enclave for $2,204 and was compensated $80,000.
“Jamie Montero [a brother of Minister Montero] got 5 acres of land 6 miles northwest of San Pedro for $2,200, and he was compensated $175,000 for that land.
“Alejandro Montero [a brother of Minister Montero] got 10 acres of land in the Prevassion enclave [Briceño said he has not found the grant number for this parcel of land as yet], but he was compensated $80,000. Alejandro also got 4 acres north of San Pedro for $1,760 and then got another 5 acres of land in the same area for $2,200 and was compensated for these two parcels of land $395,000.”
“The Montero family collected $1,778,352, and to add salt to injury, as they would say, they were given interest of 7 percent from the date of acquisition, the interest calculated to be $1,369,331. The Montero family has been compensated by the taxpayers of this country a grand total of $3,147,683,” Briceño said.
Briceño said that for some time we have been promised an audit of the Ministry of Natural Resources. He said they knew that there were major hustles that had taken place, that there was a scam. He said this was the easiest way for members of the UDP to siphon off millions of dollars.
Briceño explained that under Gaspar Vega, 70 million dollars was given out as compensation, and we still don’t know who and for what the money was given.
“This is a direct indictment of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister as Minister of Finance,” he said.
“All of these lands were given during the rush leading up to the 1998 general elections, and in the case of the lands in the Prevassion area of the Mountain Pine Ridge, the Forestry Department was against giving them out because they are important wetlands that should never have been given out. So it was a Cabinet decision to re-acquire them,” Briceño explained. “The PUP government could not come to a compensation, so they waited until a UDP government was in power,” he said.
Today, at a press conference at his Belize City office, Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño, opened his press briefing saying that for some time they have been calling out Hon. Anthony “Boots” Martinez, from the period when he was the Minister of Human Development and Minister responsible for the Poverty Alleviation Program. He said it came as a shock to them two days ago when Kirk Lamb came to the media and showed his deposit book, which revealed that the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation had deposited $195,000 over a period of time, under the guise that Lamb is a contractor.
The Opposition leader explained that under the program for the poor, houses made of plywood and plycem were being built, and the government was being billed $27,000 per house, for a house which did not contain the proper utilities. The houses basically consisted of a roof and four walls, and cost nothing more than 12 to 15 thousand dollars, Briceño said.
The Opposition leader said there is something obviously wrong when the Minister who is responsible for poverty alleviation would be building houses through companies with which he is directly linked, or through his cronies.
Briceño said something is wrong when the Minister and his CEO would sign a contract with Lamb, “when he is clearly not a contractor. He has no equipment, he has no finance, he has no experience, he has no ability, he has nothing.” “Why would the Ministry sign the contracts? As Mr. Lamb pointed out, there are several persons like him who signed the contracts. They signed; the moneys are transferred into their accounts. They go to their accounts and take out the money and hand it over to one of the cronies of Minister Boots,” remarked the Opposition leader.
Briceño called on Prime Minister Barrow to fire Minister Martinez from his Cabinet and launch an investigation and an audit of all the ministries of which Martinez was a Minister. He said that a report should be tabled in the House of Representatives and a copy should be given to the police for them to investigate if any criminal activity had taken place and who is responsible