A month ago, we told you how Bahamian Securities Traders Rohn Knowles and Kelvin Leach won an award against the Central Bank, which forces the Bank to fork over 1.4 million US dollars that it had seized from both men's bank accounts. That's in addition to 8.8 million dollars which the Supreme Court awarded them back in January of 2016. Well, right now, the Government is appealing that ruling at the Court of Appeal, in hopes of convincing the judges to set aside that award.
As has been well reported, that 8.8-million-dollar judgment debt dates back to the September of 2014 when both men and their company, Titan Securities, were indicted by the US Government along with several others for securities fraud and money laundering. At the request of the US, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Anti-Drug Unit cleaned out their offices at the Matalon Building on Coney Drive. That raid was so extensive that the Belizean authorities removed all of their documents and equipment.
They sued the Government and Justice Courtney Abel (ABLE) ruled in their favour that the search and seizure was excessive, unlawful, and in breach of their constitutional rights. He awarded the men almost 9 million dollars, but, in the Court of Appeal today, Government Attorney Denys Barrow was attempting to convince the Appeal Court judges that he came to the wrong conclusion.
He submitted today that in September 2014, a US indictment against both men and their company was unsealed. The Government of Belize received a request for mutual legal assistance was made from the US Government. The search was conducted the next day, and shortly after that, the International Financial Services Commission sent an email notification that their license to conduct securities trades was suspended. Barrow said that this suspension has not been lifted, and this, combined with the negative publicity from the US indictment forced the shutdown Titan Securities. From the Government's perspective, the judge wrongly attributed the shutdown due to the police raid on Titan, which is why they believe that the judgment should be set aside.
In defense, Eamon Courtenay, the lead attorney for both men, submitted that the judge's ruling was correct, and that their constitutional rights were breached. The day's hearing ended about an hour and a half before start of the news this evening, and coming out of court, Barrow spoke briefly with us about the case. Here's what he had to say:
Denys Barrow, Government Attorney
"I prefer not to give a synopsis of the submissions I put forward, because as Eamon who has decline to speak with you today indicated the case is not finish."
"What I can do is to tell you what the case is about, not what I said or what he is saying. It is simply that an award was made of 4 million plus US dollars for the government's search and seizure of Titans property and they allege and were successful in getting the court to accept that that caused the shutting down of their business and the complete loss of their business and like I said the court, the Supreme Court awarded 4 plus million US dollars. The aim of the government and the FIU is to get the court of appeal to reverse that award of damages and the case for the GOB is that no damages at all should be awarded. So, GOB is trying to get it down to zero dollars. But it remains to complete arguments. So no comment at all about what has taken place."
The case continues on Thursday, when Courtenay will finish with the response from the Bahamians. Barrow will then respond, and then it will be a better of waiting for a decision.