Aug. 25, 2005 — Word has arrived from Belize that Jeffrey Prosser, owner of Innovative Telephone in the Virgin Islands, and investor in the Belize telephone company, may have won an important court decision in Belize.
But the Government of Belize (GOB) says that nothing significant has happened.
On Monday the Belize Court of Appeals decided, in a verbal decision, to overrule three parts of an earlier four-part decision by the Belize Supreme Court regarding the appointment of directors of Belize Telecommunications Ltd. No text of the decision was made available, and none will be available until the Court meets again in October.
Prosser's interpretation, according to 7News, one of Belize's two television stations, was that the court had restored him to the chairmanship of BTL and nullified the sale of BTL stock by the government to Lord Michael Ashcroft, the British entrepreneur who had formerly controlled the company.
On the other hand, the Belizean Attorney General, Francis Fonseca, told News Five (the other local TV station and one owned by Lord Ashcroft) "Nothing has changed in terms of the status quo of the board."
Fonseca also said, according to News Five, that the court did not reverse the fourth part of the earlier decision "which upholds the authority of the majority holders of 'C' shares to appoint four [of the eight] members of the board." A coalition of GOB and Lord Ashcroft holds a majority of these shares.
Prosser's lawyer, Lanny Davis, issued a press release saying: "Because of the Court of Appeals' reversal of the Belizean lower court, we are planning to ask the Miami Federal District Court to amend its findings and legal conclusions concerning a decision in the government's favor on similar issues handed down by that Court several days ago." (See "Prosser Loses, Belize Wins in Miami Court").
The current legal situation is of interest to court watchers for two reasons unrelated to the merits of the case. First, it shows that the Supreme Court of Belize is not, in fact, the supreme court, as its decisions can be overturned by a higher body, the Belize Court of Appeal. Belize is not alone in this high-flying judicial terminology; the State of New York also has a "Supreme Court" whose decisions are subject to review by a higher state judicial body.
Secondly, 7News, the independent television station in Belize, noted that the decision of the Belize Court of Appeal will "stand until and unless it is overturned by the Privy Council."
This has been the first media mention, in this case, of Great Britain‛s highest court, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, or more commonly, the Law Lords. The Law Lords are judges and members of the House of Lords; they serve as the supreme judicial authority for the United Kingdom, for its remaining colonies (such as the British Virgin Islands), and for many of the now independent nations, such as Belize, that formerly were British colonies.
And who else is a member of the House of Lords (but not the Law Lords)? Lord Ashcroft holds a life peerage as a result of an appointment by Britain‛s Conservative Party.
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