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Chairman claims ‘Ashcroft affiliates’ attacking BTL from new angle, via bank

4 Dec 2009

The chairman of recently renationalised telco Belize Telemedia Ltd (BTL), Nestor Vasquez, has made a public statement to highlight a new threat he claims his company faces from affiliates of its former biggest indirect shareholder, the UK’s Lord Michael Ashcroft. Vasquez said that British Caribbean Bank (formerly Belize Bank), which is controlled by a company chaired by Ashcroft, is seeking to close down BTL on the basis that it neglected to pay back USD25 million in debt. BTL has responded by saying that it considers the loan, taken out by the previous board of directors under private ownership (of companies associated with Ashcroft) to be unlawful and therefore void. The bank is now seeking an additional USD2.25 million in fees incurred by the 2007 loan. BTL’s new state-appointed board, installed in August 2009, say that the loan was ‘illegally’ used by the company to buy its own shares which were then distributed, and companies controlled by Lord Ashcroft received 94% of the allocation. As the shares were brought back by the company, they should not have received any dividend payments, but Vasquez said that in 2008, although the firm made a profit of USD37 million, it paid out USD70 million in dividends. BTL says that this USD70 million was given to Belize Bank who then gave shareholders loan notes instead of cash. Vasquez concluded by accusing BTL’s previous owners of ‘bleeding the company for years.’

Belize, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL, Digi)

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