In 2014, a potential mega-resort on Sandbore Caye and Northern Two Caye, located within the Lighthouse Reef Atoll received much attention across Belize and internationally. Many were negatively surprised after pictures showing two senior Cabinet Ministers at the unveiling of the concept at the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival in France. The Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, at his quarterly press conference, has officially stated that Puerto Azul is not a project, but merely a concept being discussed by investors. This went against the grain of environmentalists’ claim that the proposed development could be devastating to the environment, since it would sit on an Atoll that is part of Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and is home to the Great Blue Hole, a significant site for the tourism industry.
Additionally, PM Barrow stated that the project is simply in discussion. “The government has engaged in discussion with the potential developers on the idea, but it has not gone further than that,” said PM Barrow. He added that the initial plan was far too elaborate for the magnitude of the project, and the government had asked for the project to be downscaled. The initial proposal was for Puerto Azul to include shopping centers, restaurants and bars, a golf club house, spa, airstrip, marina, churches, business centers, botanical garden, health care center, not to mention accommodations for approximately 1,000 guests and 2,000 employees. “No kind of approval will be given, unless all the process required by law, public policy and governance has been met. In addition the proposal must be feasible before it is even sent to Cabinet for consideration,” said PM Barrow.
“…Yes, we want to develop our project, but at the same time we have the same goal as the environmentalist, we need to protect the reef.” According to the local representative for Puerto Azul, the environmental organization that is being acquired to help with the development will look at ways to address and enhance the island’s ecosystem.”
One of the senior Cabinet Ministers that was at the unveiling of the concept in France was Manuel Heredia, Jr. When questioned if his attendance was an endorsement to the project, Heredia said at this point, it is uncertain if the project will indeed materialize as all the necessary studies are yet to be made. “We went over there on an invitation by Puerto Azul to look at a model concept that they had… I don’t even know if this will succeed or not, but whatever the case is, the exposure the country has gotten [at Cannes] is by itself substantial. According to Heredia the trip was fully financed by Puerto Azul investees.
In terms of the environment, we will conduct studies to see how we can restore the islands so that we can become an eco-friendly resort. This project is good for the country, the people and the environment that it is too positive to fail,” said the Puerto Azul spokesperson.
This all sounded good and dandy to the UDP government who at the times was involved directly or indirectly with the Sanctuary Bay Enterprise and could only have been thinking $$$$$$$. Another easy-money venture is coming. If they could only have had a little vision and caution they would have noticed the fraud and the Too-Good-To-Be-True RED FLAGS. On July 23, 2014, Minister Heredia had indicated that cabinet had approved Puerto Azul to go ahead with their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
But No… it was not true. It took Italian Police to expose the hoax. In UDP’s defence they were not the ONLY ones duped. They were not the only greedy ones. That Puerto Azul was using Belize as the base for the Ponzi Scheme was a severe indictment. It was reported that on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 media houses from Switzerland said that Domenico Giannini, the man behind Puerto Azul, and Fabio La Rosa, had been arrested by financial police. Allegedly, both men have extorted money from over 200 private investors under the name of the luxury development, Puerto Azul.
The arrest warrant was issued by the financiers of the Provincial Command of Varese against seven persons. Five were sent to prison while two remained under house arrest. Both Giannini and La Rosa were among those sent to prison. During the arrest, officers also confiscated over 18 million Euros in assets (26 properties, 27 land shares of 10 companies, 6 cars and 18 bank accounts). Over 20 searches were performed between the accused parties’ offices in Italy and Switzerland.
Apparently the development was nothing more than a farce, as the entire project was just a means to commit fraud and embezzlement. It should have been a rude awakening but the parallel Sanctuary Bay scam was ongoing. Some land owners were already getting foreclosure letters. The UDP was severely compromised in so many levels—Sanctuary Bay plus Puerto Azul.
Puerto Azul occurring parallel to the Sanctuary Bay Saga is definitely a part of UDP Infamy. The get-rich easily was and is still the modus operandi of the United Democratic Party government and its operatives. There is no pardon out there for them.
The ONLY blue that is good for Belize it the People’s United Party and its vision of hope for a Belize that will work for everyone.