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Belize – A Sunny Beach for Shady People

Belize – A Sunny Beach for Shady People
February 02
11:09 2020

Belize – A Sunny Beach for Shady People

By: Neri O. Briceño

Many moons ago, British novelist Somerset Maugham described the Principality of Monaco as a ‘sunny place for shady people’ and he was probably right. Monaco is a small sovereign city-state country in western Europe. It shares a common border with France and the Mediterranean Sea and is the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican. While it has a population of about only 38,400 people, it enjoys one of the highest standards of living, despite the fact that it has almost zero natural resources.

The country was made famous in 1956 when American actress Grace Kelly married its ruler, Prince Rainier III. Monaco despite its size has a GDP of approximately $6.4 billion which can be attributed to three key sectors of its economy; very high-end tourism, gambling, and a tax haven for the wealthy. Over the years the nation has marketed itself globally, but especially in Europe as the premier destination for all three. It has been so successful in the effort that Monaco has become synonymous with wealth, financial investment, income protection and strict ironclad banking secrecy laws. The elite and wealthy from around the world flood Monte Carlo; movie stars, financial/hedge fund investors, sport celebrities, monarchy, politicians and heads of state. It became that perfect safe place to stash both legal and illicit funds.

But as the saying goes, money brings problems and big money brings even bigger problems. As recently as a decade ago, the French Parliament declared Monaco a ‘rogue state’ because by this time, as the financial experts put it, Monaco had also attracted financial prostitutes, burglars in business suits, money launderers and corrupt government ministers including individuals connected to cartels and organized crime. It went so far that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development blacklisted it as an ‘uncooperative tax haven.’ It took the current head of state, Prince Albert II to recognize the condition that his nation was in and then take steps to reverse it. Prince Albert addressed the number one issue that was eating away at the core of Monaco’s society, and also the nation, which was an institutional state of corruption both in the private and public sector. Since his inauguration in 2005 following the death of his father Rainier III, corruption has drastically reduced, Monaco’s blacklisting in Europe has been removed and the international public reputation of the state has been restored.

The Lev Dermen case brings into sharp focus that while Monaco is no longer a haven for financial prostitutes, burglars in business suits, money launderers and corrupt government ministers including individuals connect to cartels and organized crime, Belize has now signaled that it is willing to take its place and is more than willing to accommodate such characters or at the least look the other way. Apart from crime and violence, all the other problems that our young nation faces have to do with one thing – financial impropriety; land scams, Rio Azul, drug planes, passport scandals and massive case after case of either misappropriation of funds, bloated contracts, bribes, kickback and outright theft.

It has become remarkably clear by unscrupulous characters in the international community that our nation is either willing to accommodate or is ‘open to business’ whenever they decide to use us as a medium for financial irregularity. A closer look at Dermen’s presence in Belize reveals that he was able to move freely within the country, had access to businessmen and politicians alike and those at the parties on the beach on the shrimp farm on the Coastal Road were from all party lines and levels in government. The additional questions that must be asked are; who was the corporate attorney at the time for the shrimp farm in question? Who facilitated the granting of a casino license in the name of someone from the same farm? Why was there a desire by so many elected officials to meet and greet Lev Dermen on the Coastal Road farm – in other words what was the quid pro quo? What was he giving away or offering? Who introduced him to Belize? Who provided him with access to the business community and government officials? Who was the bag man that transported the monies that he wanted to donate to the village of Armenia (he said the name reminded him of home)? How much was the ‘donation,’ and did it reach the people of Armenia?

This is not the reputation we want to build for our nation and one that must be reversed. For positive growth to occur any further administration must tackle corruption aggressively and without rest. Monaco showed that if the will is there, it can be done. Belize can no longer afford to be seen as the poster boy for corruption in the international community.

It’s all about the people!!!!

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