Tonight the scandals surrounding former Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega and members of his family and their unbridled land grab have gotten deeper and much more serious.
For weeks, we have been exposing leaked land documents which show the family of Gaspar Vega acquiring land all over Belize, in particular during the time Vega was the Lands Minister. Among the recently leaked documents, there are files which show that the Vegas bought land from groups of persons who accessed land at very cheap rates. The persons then sold their parcels of land to members of the Vega family.
When Prime Minister Dean Barrow was asked about the documents, he pointed out that while the optics may look questionable, he saw no actionable illegality and so, in his words, “it is what it is”.
But tonight the Prime Minister might have a change of opinion about a few of the land documents, because at least one person whose name appears on the files as an alleged land purchaser who then sold to the former Minister’s son, Andre Vega, has written to the Prime Minister declaring that she was never involved in any such transaction and that a handwriting expert has concluded that her signatures on multiple land documents, were all forged.
We will begin with the actual documents. This Minister’s Fiat Grant File No. 175 of 2009 shows that one Amy Forte of #1 Baboon Street in Belmopan purchased a parcel of land measuring 3,826 square meters in Caye Caulker Village for $2,500 on May 18 2009 from the Ministry of Natural Resources. The document carries the signature of then Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega.
Nine months later, on February 17 2010, a Deed of Conveyance shows Forte transferring the title to the Caye Caulker land to Andre Antonio Vega of 18 Clarke Street in Orange Walk for $30,000. The document has the proper legal technical language, and Forte’s signature is even witnessed and stamped by Justice of the Peace Darlene L. Padron and acquaintance of Gaspar Vega.
But the real Amy Forte has declared that she doesn’t know anything about any of the land business. In a letter dated today August 29th, Forte’s attorneys from McKoy Torres LLP write the Prime Minister, stating that [quote] “Ms. Forte denies any such involvement and was not aware that the Government of Belize has issued Minister’s Fiat Frant No 175 of 2009 to her in 2009 nor did she execute a Deed of Conveyance between herself and one Andre Vega” [end quote].
Additionally, Forte’s attorney tell the Prime Minister that a handwriting analysis has concluded that her signatures on the pages of the Deed Conveyance are forged.
The letter ends with requests that the fraudulent Minister’s Fiat Grant be cancelled, that the Deed of Conveyance in favour of Andre Vega be voided for fraud and that steps be taken to publicly clear Forte’s name.
Forte’s attorney also issued a press release, in which they also indicate that they reserve the right to bring about legal action against the Vega family and the Government of Belize.
With all of that before the Prime Minister, he is certainly rethinking his “no actionable illegality” statement to the media and would be compelled to find out what is behind all the land acquisition for the Vegas, and how in this particular case, it is that Andre Vega came to own land in Caye Caulker with forged signatures on land documents.
The Prime Minister would not be able to pass the buck to another Minister, as he is the substantive Minister of Natural Resources.
Andre Vega, you may recall, is already facing legal problems in the Supreme Court, over an illegal compensation payment of $400,000 paid to him by the Ministry of Natural Resources, during the time his father presided over it, for land sold by the Government in error, and for which Vega paid $15,000.