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State Department Backs Belize in Fight with Prosser

Aug. 18, 2005 — On Aug. 3, Jeffrey Prosser's Innovative Communications Corp., the parent to the Virgin Islands' phone company, Innovative Telephone, asked the U.S. State Department to intervene on behalf of ICC in its on-going battle with Belize.
As government watchers know, the U.S. government often moves slowly, but it was only two weeks later that the State Department intervened in the Belize-Prosser battle.
But it did so on behalf of Belize.
ICC's efforts to obtain control of the Belize telephone company have involved many complex corporate maneuvers, one of which was persuading the Government of Belize (GOB) some time ago to sell, for a single Belizean dollar, the right to appoint two of the eight members of the local phone company's board of directors. When ICC did not pay a promissory note for $57 million to the GOB, the latter seized the phone company; then, in early August, the GOB started an action to regain the two board seats.
ICC called on the State Department to intervene on behalf of its investment by exploring "the possibility… of suspending the visa of any Belizean Government official who supports this legislation," to quote the ICC press release of August 3. That would mean that the State Department would have (had it followed ICC's urgent request) denied Said Musa, the Prime Minister of Belize, the right to travel to the U.S.
The State Department's intervention on behalf of Belize came on Wednesday in another part of the complex Prosser-Belize battleground. Earlier in the year, a federal district court judge in Miami had ordered Belize to restore to office some of the Prosser directors that the GOB had removed; then, when Belize moved slowly in the eyes of the judge, she levied a $50,000-a-day fine on the nation for contempt of court. Prosser recently asked that this fine be doubled.
Belize appealed the $50,000-a-day decision, taking the judicial action into the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Wednesday, the State Department filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the case. According to 7News, the Belizean TV station, State Department lawyers wrote that the judgment regarding the fine "may conflict with the sovereign immunities act, and the imposition of monetary sanctions against foreign sovereigns has possible ramifications for the foreign relations of this nation."
In other words, if the $50,000-a-day fine against Belize holds up in U.S. courts, it could open the door for judges in other nations to try to fine the U.S.
There is no word as to when the 11th Circuit will decide on the appeal, but the status of the case may be affected by the State Department brief and by the fact that the judge who ordered the temporary injunction that led to the fine has since terminated that injunction. That move was part of her broader decision against ICC and for Belize announced earlier in the week. (See Prosser Loses, Belize Wins in Miami Court.)

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