Party Leader Hon. John Briceño’s Statement to the Press Wednesday, 30th August 2017

Good afternoon, on behalf of the People’s United Party, I condemn yet again the corruption in the Government of the United Democratic party, under the leadership of the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow.

We Belizeans have witnessed an obvious act of misfeasance in public office, which occurred at the Lands Ministry during the tenure of Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega.

I place on record our utter dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister’s dismissive comment to the press when asked about the recent revelations of yet anther Vega land scheme saying: “what it is, is what it is”.

Ladies and gentlemen, what this is, is a Prime Minister making light of one of his minister’s land hustle. “What it is”, is a case of self-dealing on the part of his former Deputy Prime Minister.

“What it is”, is a Prime Minister who chose to do nothing while the nation’s patrimony was being looted and stolen.

“What it is” is a well-orchestrated get rich scheme by the Vega Family.

That is what it is.

For too long the Prime Minister has turned a blind eye to what was happening in the Ministry of Lands under his former Deputy Prime Minister.

It was 4 years ago, on the 20th of October 2013 that the Prime Minister publicly declared the Ministry of Lands under Gapi Vega as “a hotbed of corruption”.

The fact that the Prime Minister removed Gaspar Vega from the Ministry of Natural Resources is not enough! The fact that Vega was allowed to resign from Cabinet is still not enough!

This latest scam operation that occurred at the Lands Department during the tenure of former Deputy Prime Minister Vega can be added to:
? The Shipstern sea front properties
? The close to seventeen hundred acres of land in the Carmelita area now famously called Rancho Vega
? The more than 400 acres of land in the Spanish Creek Area near the Belize River on the George Price Highway
? The lands that were de-reserved from the Don Elijo Panti National Park in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
? The countless caye lands sold cheaply to his family members and associates
? And the big hustle in respect to compensation for lands his son Andre and other family members received.

This is similar to what occurred with the land near the Haulover Bridge, which was private land that the Government ended up compensating Andre Vega and Sharon Pitts for $400,000 each.

Now this Mosquito Caye land swap is an obscene UDP scam designed to reward the Vegas with their own private island located right next to Leonardo di Caprio’s Blackadore Caye. Here is what was corruptly and criminally done:
First the Government of Belize compensated a company called Aquarius Ltd. for a portion of land Aquarius Ltd. acquired privately.

This very same private land that they knew did not belong to the Government was then transferred to Darrel Henry and Amy Forte, which according to the documents was sold for $2500 each.

Then according to the records Henry and Forte supposedly turned around and sold their parcels of land to Andre Vega and Eduardo Vega in separate transactions.

Lo and behold, the lands that were sold to Andre Vega and Eduardo Vega was once again discovered to be private land and so for the second time the Government had to compensate individuals for the same land.

That is the same land for which compensation had been paid to Aquarius Ltd. But it was not ordinary people involved this time, so the compensation had to be different.
And what was the compensation this time around?

Well — the compensation was Mosquito Caye, located right next to Di Caprio’s Caye and which at today’s market price could fetch around five million US dollars.
But here’s the thing, since the news broke about this land scam Ms Amy Forte has come forward.
Ms Forte has disclosed that she never received title to the land; nor did she pay any purchase price to government for Fiat Grant No 175 of 2009; nor did she receive $30,000 for the sale of such land to Andre Vega. Ms Forte had tests done to the documents bearing her signature and according to the expert her signature was forged. Interestingly, the fraudulent Conveyance bears the signature of Ms Darlene Padron, a justice of the peace who worked at the Ministry of Lands under Vega.

As the Belizean people know, this is not an isolated incident; this is a scheme by these UDP Ministers to enrich themselves and their families. Belizeans, enough is enough!
It is time for the Prime Minister to take action.

We in the PUP demand that the Prime Minister take the following immediate actions:
1. Ensure that the Commissioner of Police instruct the Criminal Investigation Branch of the Police Department to open an investigation into the fraudulent scams by the Vega Family.
2. As he is the current Minister of Lands, we demand that the Prime Minister immediately cancel all land titles issued, since 2008, by the Government of Belize to members of the Vega family.
3. Establish a Commission of Inquiry into the hotbed of corruption in the Ministry of Lands for the period 2008 to 2015.
4. We demand that the Prime Minister instruct the Attorney general to initiate a claim for misfeasance in public office against Gaspar Vega and ensure the recovery of all the ill-gotten gains by his family, and damages in the millions for loss suffered by the people of Belize.

In addition and in accordance with standing order 25 of the House, we will table a motion in National Assembly calling for a full and thorough investigation into the Ministry of Lands during the tenure of Gaspar Vega and will also instruct our PUP Senators to call for the same in the Senate.

The Belizean people deserve better from all of us who offer ourselves for positions of leadership, whether it be as politicians, social activists, business or religious leaders. All of us have a responsibility to speak out against corruption. I call on all our leaders to join me in demanding that the Prime Minister do the right thing and take the appropriate action against Gaspar Vega and his family.

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