Courtenay Coye LLP

Belize City

Courtenay Coye LLP has established itself as one of the leading law Firms in Belize with its attorneys having a combined experience of over 70 years.  Our experience enables us to consistently provide high quality professional representation. We regularly advise clients on complex legal transactions and matters and appear on behalf of clients at all levels of courts including the Caribbean Court of Justice, Belize’s highest appellate court. Our Belize law firm always deploys our strongest skill sets in the interest of our clients.

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Private Client & Offshore Services

The importance of legal advice for timeshare rights
Belize | 16 July 2015

The Supreme Court recently highlighted the need to comply strictly with essential legal requirements when investing in property abroad. It found that US citizens who had purchased timeshare interests in a residential resort could not exercise their purported rights in priority of a bank's mortgage interest on the property because they had not registered their timeshares or paid the required stamp duty.

Directors' indemnities foolproof
Belize | 16 April 2015

The Belize Court of Appeal recently confirmed that indemnities given by a Belizean company to its directors deprived the company of a cause of action to pursue a claim against former directors for decisions taken during their term as company directors. Belize continues to recognise blanket indemnities given by a company to directors as legal.

Appeal Court clarifies procedural law on claims against foreign defendants
Belize | 04 September 2014

The Belize Court of Appeal has provided guidance to litigants involved in multi-jurisdictional litigation. The court interpreted the rules applicable to commencing a claim against foreign defendants, and service of a claim form and interim injunction on parties outside the jurisdiction. Under the Civil Procedure Rules there is no need to obtain permission to issue a claim form for service abroad.

Enforcement of LCIA award refused as contrary to public policy
Belize | 22 May 2014

The Caribbean Court of Justice has addressed the issue of whether New York Convention Awards should be enforced. The case is exceptional and should be confined to its unusual facts. However, it stands as highly persuasive authority for the proposition that violations of the constitutional order by a government when affording tax concessions to investors may afford a defence to enforcement of an arbitral award.

Caribbean Court of Justice rules government must arbitrate under treaty
Belize | 08 August 2013

The Caribbean Court of Justice has delivered a landmark decision which narrows the circumstances in which a government may resort to its domestic courts to restrain international arbitration proceedings. The decision is an important victory for international investors in the Commonwealth Caribbean, since many bilateral investment treaties include clauses for resolution of disputes by international arbitration.

Landmark arbitration judgment expected
Belize | 06 June 2013

The Caribbean Court of Justice is expected to deliver a landmark ruling on arbitration law in the next few months. The court will decide whether the enforcement of an arbitral award issued by the London Court of International Arbitration against the Belize government is contrary to Belize public policy.

Rights and duties of receivers in managing and selling mortgaged property
Belize | 24 January 2013

Receivers are usually appointed pursuant to the provisions of a mortgage debenture or a registered mortgage or charge. Although a receiver is expressed to be the company's agent, it does not take directions from the company, but rather gives directions to it. Where a receiver fails to carry out its duties with due diligence, it may become personally liable to the debenture holder or the company.

A guide to the International Limited Liability Companies Act 2011
Belize | 20 December 2012

The International Limited Liability Company (LLC) Act provides a general framework for the establishment and operation of an international LLC. The act introduces numerous asset protection features that make Belize's LLC one of the strongest asset protection tools available.

Granting freezing and receivership orders in foreign proceedings
Belize | 06 December 2012

The Belize Supreme Court has jurisdiction to grant a free-standing freezing order in respect of the assets of an international business company – more colloquially known as an offshore company – in order to freeze the company's assets in aid of ongoing foreign proceedings. However, the court exercises this jurisdiction with great caution, and often reluctantly.

EMBASSY mark does not infringe MARLBORO mark
Belize | 29 November 2012

Tobacco giants Philip Morris SA and British American Tobacco (Brands) Limited (BAT) have been locked in combat over the registration of BAT's EMBASSY trademark in Belize. BAT has thus far persuaded the deputy registrar, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal that it should be permitted to proceed with registration of its mark.

Norwich Pharmacal orders in transnational litigation
Belize | 15 November 2012

Norwich Pharmacal applications have become commonplace in Belize due to the country's thriving international financial services sector. One of the most recent successes is illustrated in Quinn Finance v Galfis Overseas Limited, which demonstrates that Norwich Pharmacal orders can be a powerful tool in multi-jurisdictional litigation.

The high cost of preventing employees from unionising
Belize | 08 November 2012

The first claim made under the Trade Unions and Employers' Organisations (Registration, Recognition and Status) Act was filed by six former employees of banana farm Mayan King Limited. The employees alleged that they had been dismissed due to their role in spearheading a movement to unionise the workers and. The compensation awarded to the claimants was largely affected by the particular facts of the case.

Eighth Amendment breaches basic structure
Belize | 11 October 2012

The controversial Belize Constitution (Eighth Amendment) Bill was recently introduced in the House of Representatives against the background of the Court of Appeal's decision that the government's nationalisation of Belize Telemedia Limited was unlawful, null and void. The primary purpose of the amendment was to make renationalisation beyond legal challenge.

New tax measures
Belize | 04 October 2012

Noteworthy tax measures have accompanied the 2012-2013 national budget. Service providers in the international financial services sector will now pay business tax at a rate of 3%. This will apply to the portion of their services provided to non-residents, if that revenue is maintained separately from domestic revenue. However, if there is a commingling of receipts, then the service provider will be taxed at 6%.

Democracy at work: the Referendum Act
Belize | 12 July 2012

The Referendum Act allows the electorate to trigger a process that can lead to the holding of a referendum. A referendum can be called in various circumstances, including if 10% of registered voters present a petition that an issue is of sufficient public importance be put to a referendum. To date, only two referendums have been held.

Appeal court declares Telemedia nationalisation unconstitutional
Belize | 29 March 2012

In 2009 the Belize government nationalised Belize Telemedia Limited. The legality of the nationalisation was challenged, but the Supreme Court found it to be constitutional. However, the appeal court recently declared the nationalisation to be "unlawful, null and void". Nevertheless, the government refused to comply with the judgment, stating that it would remain in control of Telemedia unless a court order was issued.

Indictable Procedure (Amendment) Act and Juries (Amendment) Act
Belize | 08 March 2012

The primary objective of the Indictable Procedure (Amendment) Act is to provide for a trial without a jury in certain criminal cases (eg, in the case of murder and attempted murder). No appeal can lie against an order of the judge granting or refusing an application for a trial to be conducted without a jury. The Juries (Amendment) Act furthers the objective of the Indictable Procedure (Amendment) Act.

Telemedia and Belize Electricity Limited: the economics of nationalisation
Belize | 09 February 2012

The proposed Ninth Constitutional Amendment must be looked at in the context of Belize's socio-economic realities. It seeks to accomplish one primary objective: to entrench nationalisation of certain utilities – in particular, Telemedia and Belize Electricity Limited. Although nationalisation may be desirable from a protectionist approach, will it ultimately produce wealth for the nation of Belize?

Legality of committal warrants for non-payment of tax
Belize | 26 January 2012

The Supreme Court has granted a declaration that the magistrate had erred in law and acted beyond the scope of the Income and Business Tax Act in ordering a taxpayer to pay taxes admittedly due "in default committal". The court found that it was not proved to the satisfaction of the magistrate – as required by the act – that the taxpayer had the means to pay the sum ordered.

Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act
Belize | 08 December 2011

The Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act No 7 of 2011 provides that an appeal against the decision of a magistrate shall not operate as an automatic stay of execution of the decision under appeal. The amendment specifically amends Section 112 of the principal act, which previously made provision for the execution of the decision under appeal from the inferior court to be suspended until determination or abandonment of the appeal once the appellant had given notice of and security for the appeal.

Ninth Amendment to the Constitution proposed
Belize | 01 December 2011

The government recently introduced the Constitution (Ninth Amendment) Bill in the House of Representatives, which proposes far-reaching changes to the Constitution. Since its introduction, the bill has been the subject of widespread discussion and analysis because it would affect both the ownership of public utilities and the rights of the judiciary.

Nationalisation of Belize Electricity Limited
Belize | 24 November 2011

The Belize government has nationalised Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), the major supplier of electricity to the Belizean public. When presenting the bill concerning BEL's nationalisation in the National Assembly, the prime minister said that the reason for nationalising BEL was to prevent Belize from being plunged into rolling blackouts.

The Petroleum Act: landowner rights
Belize | 17 November 2011

The government has entered into several production sharing agreements with different contractors pursuant to the Petroleum Act. Each contractor is authorised to conduct petroleum explorations as defined by the act, within a designated area defined by the relevant agreement. However, the owner of the land which is the subject of an agreement retains certain rights in relation to the conduct of petroleum operations on and under such land.

Regulating public utilities in Belize
Belize | 20 October 2011

In the 1980s and 1990s Belize privatised its state-owned utilities. The underlying rationale behind the privatisation varied from seeking to stem the losses caused by ailing state enterprises to selling the state assets in order to generate much-needed government income. The process started with the privatisation of the state-owned telecommunications monopoly, followed by the state-owned electricity monopoly and finally the state-owned water company. The results have been mixed.

Mayan King goes to the Caribbean Court of Justice
Belize | 13 October 2011

The Court of Appeal recently handed down a decision in an employment dispute which appears contrary to long-established principles of the Trade Unions and Employers' Organisations (Registration, Recognition and Status) Act, which provide that a person cannot be awarded damages for injury to feelings. The employer, Mayan King, has been given leave to appeal the decision to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Vidrine v Vidrine: significant decision in division of matrimonial property
Belize | 13 October 2011

The Court of Appeal recently delivered its decision in Vidrine v Vidrine - a significant addition to the jurisprudence of Belize relating to the division of matrimonial property. Justice of Appeal Denys Barrow considered the principles in actions brought pursuant to Section 148A(3) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, which empowers the Supreme Court to alter property rights during divorce proceedings.

Telemedia is not dominant telecommunications operator
Belize | 22 September 2011

Following the nationalisation of government-owned Belize Telemedia Limited in August 2009, Telemedia engaged in behaviour towards its competitor Speednet Communications Limited which Speednet alleged was intended to jeopardise its ability to provide mobile telecommunications services to the Belizean public. However, the Supreme Court ruled that Telemedia was not dominant in the mobile market and refused the declaration sought.

Labour Act amended
Belize | 15 September 2011

The Labour (Amendment) Act will make significant changes to the law relating to employer/employee relationships in Belize. While some of the changes are not as extensive as originally drafted and therefore unsatisfactory to the unions, they have still caused concern among employers which are already facing challenges in keeping their businesses afloat. This update summarises the main changes introduced by the amended act.

Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction, holds Court of Appeal
Belize | 08 September 2011

In a curious recent case, the Court of Appeal decided that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to oversee a case brought by Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) against the Public Utilities Commission. In the case, BEL brought three questions before the Supreme Court by a so-called 'case stated'.

Income and Business Tax (Amendment (No 2)) Act 2010 approved
Belize | 25 August 2011

The Income and Business Tax (Amendment (No 2)) Act 2010 was approved by the governor general at the end of 2010. The amendment introduced two significant changes to the Income and Business Tax Act as it relates to income tax. The first amendment provides further tax relief to employed persons who earn no more than $29,000 a year. The second relates to Section 108(1) of the principal act, which sets forth income which is exempt from tax.