Arguments concluded today in the case between the Barrow Administration and the Ashcroft Alliance. They were arguing over what the court should do with the injunction 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 granted by a US court. Government wants the court to make it permanent; the Ashcroft Alliance wants it lifted.
Eamon Courtenay appeared for the Ashcroft Alliance, and Denys Barrow appeared for the government of Belize. They argued all day before the Chief Justice yesterday, and then continued again this morning.
When they finished at midday we asked them how it went, and they outlined their main arguments:...
Denys Barrow, Government Attorney
"Pretty confident as I'm sure the other side is also feeling. I think it was a well-balanced presentation. I think we both made very fully the points upon which we rely."
Eamon Courtenay, Attorney - Bze. Bank/BCB Holdings
"We think that on the evidence, the defendant my clients, have a very strong case."
"We said that the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice constitutes a bar to their having proceeded in the US and the Belize court should stop them from going any further in the US proceedings. They say that the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice is limited to enforcement in Belize and should not bar them from doing anything in the states."
"What was before the CCJ was whether or not the award should be enforced in Belize and the CCJ took a decision on the basis of the law in Belize? What was before the courts in the United States was not whether the Belize law says that public policy allows enforcement or not, what it was whether the US law allows enforcement. The us court concluded all the way up to the Supreme Court that it did not violate the public policy of the United States."
"I want to make it abundantly clear my clients fully respect the CCJ judgment and the CCJ judgement has determined that you cannot enforce in Belize because it violates Belize public policy. And as i understand it from my clients and I am confident that this is so, they would never attempt to enforce in Belize because the CCJ has pronounced on that. It doesn't bar them from going elsewhere."
"Oh yes, they are entirely free to go to another jurisdiction they are free to choose which jurisdiction they will go to. But there is of course a catch to it, if you come to a court you are coming to the court on the basis that the court will finally and conclusively determine the question. Having come to this court to finally and conclusively determine the question, you cannot be allowed if you don't like the decision of this court, to go to another court. The other court may entertain you and the New York Convention allows you to go to the other court, but the question is this, what will the Belize court do with you since you "belongs" to Belize?"
"And the US court said, which all arbitration courts say that if one jurisdiction says "yes" or "no", that is not binding on another."
"We argued in favour what they call the doctrine of Res judicata which is that once a thing is determined, all parties who were party to that decision to the determination of that issue are bound by it. They are saying that in relation to arbitration, there is a special, as it were, dispensation, there is a special rule available to them and we say no."
"The Prime Minister has said that there are no government assets that can be attached. The question is if that is true then why is he seeking an injunction. I think it is very difficult to understand."
"What they want, they want nothing more than for us to drop this case or for this case to be dismissed so that they are at liberty to do whatever it is they may choose to do in the states."
"As to whether there are assets that can be attached in the United States that is a matter for the (Bank's) US attorney to answer."
Jules Vasquez, 7News
"Both sides, you are saying you don't have any assets and he is saying he doesn't want it."
"That's the beauty of it. He didn't say he didn't want it. That is exactly it. It was (laughs) I think an almost cute stance but very seriously taken that if government of Belize seh they noh have no assets then they don't an injunction. Of course our response is immediately then if you accept weh we seh then why are you pursuing this enforcement order in the United States. Drop it and we gwen drop this case."
"Is the government expending this great effort and energy at too late a stage? If it is so convinced of the righteousness of its opinion, should it have done so at the arbitral stage?"
"Ahm there was no... the position of the government at that stage was that it would not be taking part in the arbitration because we challenged the right that they exercised to arbitrate, so there was that challenge."
"My understanding of the CCJ judgement is that it was, for want of a better word, a mistake by the government not to go there and argue. We are where we are today."
"The long and short of it as far as i am concerned is that this matter of respecting the rule of law, respecting the judgement of a court, and respecting whether or not we can enforce in the United States where the United States court has said that you can."
"Are you allowed to say to the Belize courts, "well you have said what you want, but we are not taking you on, we are instead going to another court who we expect will have a different decision from you and we'll just ignore your decision and go with the decision of the foreign courts."
The injunction will remain in place until April 12th, which is when the Chief Justice will deliver his judgement on whether the injunction will remain in place permanently, or if it will be lifted.