G.O.B Defers Challenge to Oil Expert’s Affidavit
Full trial on validity of offshore oil contracts set for October 24 and 25, 2012
Press Release Date: September 13, 2012
Location: Belize City, Belize
Government Crown Counsel, Herbert Panton today announced that they will no longer pursue application to strike out the evidence of the expert witness in the case being brought by Oceana, Coalition and COLA, challenging the validity of the six offshore oil contracts.
Following the Supreme Court’s August 22nd ruling, which denied the Government of Belize’s application to strike out Oceana’s case challenging six offshore oil exploration contracts, Panton had informed the Court that the Government would file application to strike out the affidavit evidence of Bud Danenberger, a petroleum expert who is slated to give evidence on behalf of the claimants. Today, Crown Counsel informed the court that they would like to defer Government’s challenge to Bud Danenberger’s affidavit to when the substantive matters of the case is heard. Equally, Counsel Panton stated that Government intended to file two new affidavits.
This means that the matter will now proceed to full trial with October 24 and 25 slated for trial. As a result of this case being brought to the fore by these NGO’s it has also come to light that, unlike previously believed that there was one only set of contracts with Princess Petroleum, there has been a secret agreement since September 15, 2009 which allows Princess NOT to relinquish any of its leased area. Previously, under the original agreement the oil company was expected to relinquish 25% of the contract area at the end of the initial exploration period and the first renewal period. Princess’ contract was signed on the 12th October 2007 by then Minister Florencio Marin and Princess Representative Sudi Ozkan. The secret amended agreement was signed September 15, 2009 by now Minister of Natural Resources Gasper Vega and Princess Representative Hamdi Karagozoglu.
Despite repeated request under the Freedom of Information Act, this secret agreement was never disclosed by government, until it was compelled to do so as a result of this case and thus, three years later, it is revealed that Princess maintains legal exploration rights over Lighthouse Reef and the Great Blue Hole, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which under the initial agreement should have already been freed from such encumbrance. (Copy of new agreement and contract map of 2009 and 2012 attached – the large offshore block is the Princess block)