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Belize Court Rules Telco Nationalisation was Legal

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A court in Belize has ruled that the government's decision to nationalise the local telecoms network, Belize Telemedia (BTL) is lawful and dismissed the claims by representatives of the former owner. The government had argued that the company had lacked necessary investment and was engaged in financial matters which caused it concern leading to the nationalisation in August 2009.

In the process of nationalisation, the Government of Belize bought over up to 94% of its shares from British Caribbean Bank (formerly Belize Bank), which is controlled by a company chaired by the UK's Lord Ashcroft.

Last October, the British Caribbean Bank and Dean Boyce presented claims against the Attorney General and the Minister of Public Utilities stating that the laws used to enact the nationalisation are contrary to the Constitution of Belize and therefore unconstitutional and void.

In his conclusion, Justice Oswell Legal said that telecommunication services are a "critical part of the development of Belize", and noted the state the company was in when it was nationalised. For that reason he rejected the claim from the former owners.

Last year, the British Caribbean Bank also tried to wind up the company, accusing it of neglecting to pay USD25.172 million in debt repayments, which the phone company rejected as it claimed the loan was illegal.

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