The Barrow Administration and the Ashcroft Alliance were back in the Supreme Court today. They were there to try to persuade the Chief Justice why he should or should not discharge the injunction which Justice Michelle Arana granted against the Ashcroft group of companies.
You'll remember it as the one which prevents the Belize Bank Limited and the BCB Holdings Limited -now named Caribbean Investment Holdings Limited - from enforcing the 50 million US dollar judgment a US court granted, upholding the enforcement of an award made by an international tribunal against Belize. The Government maintains it won't pay because a judgment of the Caribbean Court of Justice says the arbitration award cannot be enforced in Belize against GOB.
So, that brings us to today's full trial where the Chief Justice heard arguments from Courtenay and Government attorney Denys Barrow. After the trial is completed he will decide if he will make the injunction permanent, or if he will remove it.
In the first day of the 2-day trial, the dispute was summed up by Denys Barrow as being a matter of which court's jurisdiction should be respected. Barrow submitted on behalf of the Government the Ashcroft companies first went to the Belize Supreme Court and ultimately the CCJ to enforce their arbitration award, before they went and got the judgment enforcing the award in the US Court.The Caribbean Court of Justice has ruled that the award cannot be enforced because it is contrary to public policy.
The CCJ was critical of the Musa Administration because it did not get prior parliamentary approval to give the special tax arrangements contained in the Accommodation Agreement with Michael Ashcroft.
Denys Barrow then told the court that having lost the case they brought to the final appeal court of Belize, the Ashcroft Alliance went back to the US Court get a judgment, the effect of which undermines the judgement of a Belize court. He said that the Government's position is that they ought not to be allowed to do so. Barrow argued that because these two companies are based in Belize, the ruling of the CCJ should bind them from seeking enforcement in other countries.
In defence, Eamon Courtenay submitted that the Government's arguments are silent on the principles of the New York Convention, which is incorporated into the Belize's arbitration law. He told the court that Caribbean Holdings Limited and Belize Bank Limited are the holders of a US Court judgment authorizing enforcement of the arbitral award. He said that the only place the arbitration award can be set aside is in the English Court, but the Government didn't take that option. From the perspective of the Ashcroft Alliance, the arbitral award remains final and binding, and the US Court judgment authorizing enforcement in the US, but not in Belize, must be respected by the Government.
Courtenay also submitted that if a court refuses to enforce an award, it does not stop the Ashcroft companies from going to other countries who adopt the convention to seek to get the award enforced.
Today's arguments went for a little over 3 hours, all the way into the evening. The case was adjourned until tomorrow, where Courtenay will finish up with his defence submissions, and Barrow will reply.