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Taxpayers Not Liable for AIBL Woes, Says FinSec

Taxpayers Not Liable for AIBL Woes, Says FinSec
June 08
21:10 2019

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) case against the principals of the $100 million Sanctuary Bay real estate fraud carried out in Belize has swept up the Atlantic International Bank Ltd. (AIBL) in the investigation, leading to its eventual demise; jeopardizing the offshore sector and causing the government to engage in discussions with the FTC regarding a settlement of the issue.

The investigation, which alleges that American Andris Pukke and his associates established a web of companies to hide the ownership of assets from the court using services facilitated by institutions in Belize, has involved numerous entities and individuals including government Senator, Aldo Salazar, who represented AIBL as its attorney; the bank’s former CEO Ricardo Pelayo; bank staff and others.

The scam, allegedly orchestrated by Pukke from behind bars in the US with the help of associates including Peter Baker, jilted American home-buyers out of over $100 million, which was used to fund lavish lifestyles for the accused fraudsters. According to FTC court documents, “…without people like Mr. Baker and without institutions like Atlantic International Bank Limited providing the assistance that they provide, the situation wouldn’t be what it is.”

The FTC, in other filings, argued for the court to maintain a freeze on assets held by AIBL in the US after the bank tried to transfer $2.9 million from an account with a corresponding ban in the US and argued that the freeze of its assets should be lifted. The FTC also cited the Belize Central Bank as the influence behind the bank’s recent decisions: “…the Central Bank (which purportedly named the liquidator, Julian Murillo, on April 12) has, practically speaking, controlled AIBL since AIBL asked for help liquidating on or about March 25.”

“…whomever ran the defunct institution on April 11 (Ricardo Pelayo, his replacement Victor Wilson, the Central Bank or Murillo)-the liquidator has every interest in removing assets from the United States and none in keeping them here voluntarily until the court resolves this matter,” the FTC said. “…at minimum, the Central bank approved demands for $2.9 million…it is plausible that, without a freeze, Belizean authorities will attempt to transfer more money beyond the court’s reach,” it added.

Elsewhere in the filings the FTC says, “…AIBL’s liability for its wrongdoing is joint and several…should the court ultimately find AIBL liable, it has the equitable power to hold AIBL jointly and severally liable for the consequences of the wrong that it facilitated.” The FTC then noted, “The relief eventually ordered in this case should the FTC prevail, is the amount for which AIBL is jointly and severally liable – vastly more than the amount currently frozen…”

The Reporter spoke with Financial Secretary Joseph Waight this week to clarify the extent of the government’s involvement in this settlement mentioned by the Prime Minister, considering the FTC’s characterization of the Central Bank as the controller of AIBL. Waight noted that the charges against AIBL constitute violations against the FTC telemarketing regulations but said GOB is at no risk of exposing itself or government funds to any liability AIBL may face at the closure of this case. He explained that the Prime Minister’s interest in the matter involves mitigating the reputational damage caused to the offshore financial jurisdiction by the Sanctuary Bay saga.

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