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Feb 14, 2024

Senate Inquiry Resumes in Belmopan

The Senate Special Select Committee continues to investigate the Portico Definitive Agreement. Since its establishment, a total of four witnesses have been called to testify before the committee, including two who were called to answer questions today. The committee’s focus in this session was on government land transactions that occurred between October and November 2020, only months before the general elections. Sean Duncan, the Director of NYNE Enterprises, and his business partner David Morales are among the individuals who purchased land from the government at the time for what the committee considers to be below market value. Duncan was summoned to testify before the committee. Former Lands Commissioner, Wilbert Vallejos was also called to testify. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

The Senate Special Select Committee convened for yet another session inside the National Assembly. The first witness to go before the committee was Sean Duncan, the Director of NYNE Enterprises Limited.  He appeared with his attorney, Andrew Bennett. Duncan and his business partner, David Morales, purchased two, fifty-acre parcels of land from the Government of Belize in October 2020. Those land transactions were among a total of sixteen properties sold off around the same time. The relevance of the sales to the agreement is that the parcels are located in the vicinity of the project’s proposed site.


Sean Duncan

Sean Duncan, Director, NYNE Enterprises Limited

“My involvement in whatever land transaction this is was fairly technical. I have a partner that deals with all of the commercial aspect of it, transaction. From my perspective I am not sure of the relevance of me being here, but I am here to comply with whatever questions you ask me. I am here because I respect this process and on the advice of my counsel.”


In his opening statement, Duncan sought to establish that his business partner David Morales oversaw most of the land transaction process. Duncan says he only signed off on papers authorizing NYNE Enterprises to make the purchase.


Kevin Herrera

Kevin Herrera, Senator

“Our records are showing that there are two properties of fifty acres each, I think one I for fifty point one and the other is around the same size, can you confirm?”


Sean Duncan

“That is correct.”


Kevin Herrera

“And you paid, five thousand two hundred dollars each for those properties, our records are showing?”


Sean Duncan

“That is the reason we wanted disclosure because we could have reviewed the documents. I really cant remember those figures or anything like that.”


Janelle Chanona, the chair of the Senate Special Select Committee, questioned Duncan on the expedited manner at which NYNE Enterprises’ land applications were processed. And, when Senator Bevin Cal questioned Duncan on Morales’ involvement in the land transaction process, Duncan continued to somewhat throw his business partner under the bus.


Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Chairpersons, Senate Committee

“We have documentation here saying you applied the seventh of October it was received the thirteenth of October and then you get approval the twentieth of October. When you got the notice from your business partner that you got the investment secured all within less than a month.”


Sean Duncan

“Something’s work faster than others I guess, from his perspective. But remember, I did not deal with that aspect.


Bevinton Cal

Bevinton Cal,  Senator

“So, David Morales was the one who did all the paper work, went to the proposed land site, inspected it, applied for it; all you did was just sign?”


Sean Duncan

“Yes he is the managing director; he did whatever he did with the transaction. He brought a good opportunity I signed over, because I don’t think you can ever go wrong with lands.”


The second witness to go before the committee today was former Lands Commissioner, Wilbert Vallejos. He served as the lands commissioner for eleven years and appeared today with his attorney, Dean Barrow, who wasted no time stating that his client will not answer questions deemed irrelevant.


Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow, Attorney-At-Law

“I believe that you would have to agree with me that questions about land transfers or land sales in an area that is within two miles of the locus, site of the Portico cruise project, those questions has nothing to do with the end on which you have embarked. You can put any question you wish, but I am suggesting to you that you are not entitled to put questions that fall outside the ambit of your terms of reference. You are not entitled.”

Thereafter, every question that senators put to the former lands commissioner was met with an objection of irrelevance.


Wilbert Vallejos

Wilbert Vallejos, Former Lands Commissioner

“Senator Herrera your question keeps coming about land. I am sure you heard Mr. Barrow, the terms of reference is specific about the Portico Definitive Agreement which I don’t know anything.”


Kevin Herrera

For me, there is relevance. You may determine otherwise but for us there is certainly a relationship so we really wanted to get an understanding of what took place that faithful day on November fourth but it seems you don’t intend to be helpful to the committee which I think is sad. The Belizean public certainly deserves a lot better than that, you being commissioner for so much years, being paid by the Belizean tax payers. So I think it is a very sad day in the country that you decided you won’t help or assist the committee in this investigation.”


It was then determined that Vallejos would be of no help to the committee during today’s session. He requested that questions be sent to him in writing and that a determination be made on whether the committee will request his presence at a later date. Former Minister of Lands, Hugo Patt was also scheduled to testify before the committee today. But due to time constraints, his testimony has been rescheduled. Paul Lopez for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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