When the House of Representatives convened on Friday, January 27, 2017, the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow finally revealed the reason for the emergency meeting of the Parliament. PM Barrow introduced an authoritative Bill, aimed at protecting the country’s foreign reserves in face of ‘Predators’.
The PM suggested that the Bill was of sovereign urgency, after revealing that attorneys for the Ashcroft Group of companies are attempting to obtain an enforcement order to collect over one hundred million dollars; monies that the Government of Belize has said it will not pay.
The PM also revealed that anyone who attempts to attach the assets of the country’s Central Bank to any judgment, would in so doing be held criminally liable. Violators would, according to the PM, be liable to an arrest and prosecution. Violator(s) could face a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to two years.
While the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceno eventually voted in favour of the Bill, he pointed out concerns that the Opposition was served with a copy of the Bill less than 24 hours prior to it being brought to the house. PM Barrow responded by apologizing and suggesting that it was tantamount to not give the Ashcroft group a ‘heads-up’, as it could have afforded them the opportunity to seek a freezing order on the country foreign reserves – a move that would not only defeat the purpose of the Bill but one which would also cripple the country’s economic activity.
The Bill went through all three readings today and received 29 votes in favour and zero against. Hon. Gaspar Vega and Hon. Francis Fonseca were both absent in today’s session.