Messi accused of using Belize Company for tax evasion

June 3rd, 2016

Lionel Andrés Messi, an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward for Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina national team, and his father Jorge Horacio Messi are accused of using fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on EUR 4.16 million of his income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-2009.

Lionel Messi’s former tax advisors came out in support of the 5-time World Player of the Year as his trial for alleged fraud continued in Barcelona, saying he never handled his wealth management.

Juarez, one of the partners at law firm Juarez Veciana which managed Messi’s tax affairs at the time was responsible for creating several companies in Uruguay, then considered a tax haven.

Messi’s father had hired the law firm as he had ongoing disputes with his then advisor who was managing the footballer’s image rights through a company based in Belize.

So, two offshore companies – Jenbril owned by Messi, and Frosyl where his father deposited his commissions as the player’s agent – are the main focus of the investigation.

Belize to fight against Money Laundering

May 18th, 2016

Belize’s Financial Intelligence Unit and Belize Police have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening the jurisdiction’s safeguards against financial crime.

According to the Financial Intelligence Unit, the memorandum will strengthen the existing cooperation and facilitate the analysis and investigation of suspected money laundering, associated offenses, and the financing of terrorism.

Implementation of the document is expected to increase the potential sources of information available to both the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Police in their fight against crime. Also, joint operations between the authorities will be possible.

The Financial Intelligence Unit is the Belizean authority dealing with the enforcement and implementation of all anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations and the prevention of domestic tax evasion.

Belize’s Government unveils 3-year development strategy

April 14th, 2016

Last week, the Government of Belize revealed its strategic plan to grow Belize’s economy. The plan is called “Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy” (GSDS), and it runs from 2016 to 2019.

The strategy was launched by the Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce, the strategy on April 7.

The report aims at harmonizing economic, social, and environmental policies with a view to produce optimal outcomes.

The strategy hinges upon 4 core themes, or “Critical Success Factors”, including as follows:

- optimal national income and investment;
- social cohesion and resilience;
- natural, environmental, historical and cultural assets;
- governance and citizen security.

Also, the plan lays out the conditions necessary for the four thematic areas to be developed appropriately.

According to the Ministry, using the GSDS as a guide, Belize will seek to achieve real output growth of 5% annually over a prolonged period.

When weighed against an estimated population growth of about 2%, this level of targeted output will lead to a sustained improvement in per capita income of approximately 33% over a 10 year period, reducing the number of people living in poverty by half by 2030.

The Government of Belize acknowledged that output will not increase to 5% within the short term; but the actions under the GSDS will set the stage for that level of growth to become possible.

Also, the strategy sets targets such as:
- achieving more equitable income distribution,
- reducing the number of homicides to under 10 per 100,000 inhabitants annually,
- providing universal access to basic and early childhood education,
- providing universal access to health care,
- maintaining or raising life expectancy beyond the current level of 74 years,
- reducing the incidence of morbidity and mortality resulting from a selected set of ailments.

“It places at the fore, sustainable development, reflecting a whole-system approach, and acknowledging increasing prosperity, eradicating poverty, improving social cohesion, caring for our natural resources, and securing peace and justice for all Belizeans as inter-connected goals,” Economic Development Minister Erwin Contreras said.

World Banks highlights Belize’s potential for real growth

April 10th, 2016

According to a new report issued by the World Bank Group, despite stagnating GDP per capita, low savings and high interest rates, Belize has great potential for economic growth.

The report “Belize: Right Choices, Bright Future” that analyses opportunities for development, along with factors hindering growth, was released on April 7. The new diagnostic report will be used by the World Bank as an instrument to identify and inform priorities for the World Bank Group’s engagement in both Belize and other countries.

Based on the data revealed in the report, a new country engagement strategy for the World Bank Group in Belize will need to be developed in consultation with key stakeholders.

Sophie Sirtaine, World Bank country director for the Caribbean said: “In spite of positive economic growth over the last 30 years, Belize has had limited social gains. Our report highlights the need for a big push to accelerate progress in education, climate resilience and crime and violence in order to put the country back on a path for sustainable growth”.