Recently, Belize has seen itself in a myriad of IBC/IFS woes. In 2016, the International banking community in Belize faced the withdrawal of correspondent banking leaving their international financial status temporarily in disarray. In June 2018, the license for Choice Bank Limited was revoked by the Prime Minister/Minister of Finance, on the advice of the Central Bank of Belize. In December 2018, the EU Code of conduct group (COCG) had blacklisted the country for failing to meet agreed tax good governance standards. On the 12th of April 2019, the Prime Minister once again revoked a Class “A” International Banking License, this time being Atlantic International Bank Ltd.
These chain of events are no coincidence, in fact it hints to poor governance and oversight from the regulating bodies. The muddling of political aides and cronies within the regulating bodies and now defunct organizations gives poor credibility to this Government’s good governance and accountability platform. In the case of Choice Bank, Rodwell Williams, Barrow’s long-time law partner is named as a Director of the aforementioned bank. Mr. Williams also sits on the board of the International Financial Services Commission. Five companies sought legal action to have Choice Bank closed, one of the companies, Orion Corporate & Trust, has former UDP Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emil Arguelles as a partner. Despite Choice Bank’s claim of being able to secure an insurance policy which would have allowed it to repay its customers, the bank was still closed.
The most recent wind up of Atlantic International Company Limited also presents various political figures amidst the liquidation controversy. An FTC court filing lists Barrow and Williams as one of the law firms representing Sanctuary Bay, the development company accused of conducting a $100 million USD real estate scam. Senator Aldo Salazar is the attorney for Atlantic International Company Limited and is also an attorney for a local bank, The Atlantic Bank Ltd. In previous interviews, Barrow had pointed out his belief of innocence by Atlantic International Bank, however, the subsequent detention and questioning of Senator Salazar would prove otherwise.
Prime Minister Barrow’s insinuation of being liable for the debt created by Sanctuary Bay has no standing under Liquidation rules. In the Sanctuary Bay Case filed with the FTC, it states “the Receiver will turn over the defendants’ assets to the FTC. Then, the FTC will return those assets to consumers who purchased lots in Sanctuary Belize/The Reserve.” This would mean that Sanctuary Bay and assets held by AIBL on behalf of Sanctuary Bay and subsidiaries would be liable for repayment to debtors. With all the cronies crisscrossing the thin lines between politics, regulatory bodies and the corporate world, the opportunities to create fraud and insider trading increases exponentially. In the US, the penalty for insider trading is 20 years in prison with a fine of up to $25,000,000 million USD, Belize has no laws to govern insider trading of information.
Belizeans must be forever vigilant of the inner workings of these IBC’s/IFS and if you’re ever in doubt, just follow the “red” tape. As a popular creole proverb says “ Sleep wid yu oan aiy”