Primrose Gabourel and son Dion Zabaneh in court over ‘sea land’

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On Wednesday January 30, the Department of the Environment, (DOE) took the owners of Parcel 4670 situated in the Caribbean Shores area of Belize City to court. The DOE contends that filling of the lot is not in within the ambit of the law.

Businessman, 43-year-old Dion Zabaneh, along with his mother, 76-year-old Primrose Gabourel of appeared in Belize City’s Magistrate’s Court to answer to six charges but only four could be read to them as the other two were not properly prepared to be before the court. Two of the charges were not properly served with the summonses. With that, Senior Magistrate, Aretha Ford withdrew them.

The four other charges read to the pair are that they proceeded with an environmental project without receiving clearance. That is said to have occurred on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. They were further charged by the DOE that they, on January 19, 2019, failed to comply with enforcement notice. Further to this, the DOE is also alleging that the pair failed to comply with an enforcement notice dated, Monday, January 21, 2019 issued on January 8, 2019 to immediately cease all work at the Caribbean Shores parcel.

The first three charges was read to the duo while the fourth charge was read only to Zabaneh. That charge was of assault upon an employee of the DOE. Allegations being made by the DOE is that on January 19, 2019, Dion Zabaneh assaulted and obstructed DOE employee, Marco Escalante, an environmental technician in the execution of his duties whilst at Parcel 4670 situated in the Caribbean Shores Area, Belize City.

The duo pleaded not guilty to all charges as they were represented by attorney, Emil Argüelles while Jeavon Hulse was the Crown Counsel representing the Ministry of Environment, Fisheries, Agriculture and Forestry. He was assisted by Samantha Matute.

Before the four charges were read to the duo, Argüelles rose to bring to the attention of the court that his clients were not summoned on the additional two charges. That caused those to be withdrawn by the court. Arguelles also brought to the attention of the sitting magistrate that information and complainant forms were all signed by a JP and not by a magistrate and from his experience of things, someone who once worked as a Crown Counsel  prosecuting, it is the practice and legal requirement that a magistrate must sign. He noted that the summons were signed by a JP in the Belmopan Jurisdiction where the matter has no bearing.

As both sides went deeper into the substantive arguments of the parcel in question, a concern arose regarding, which parcel was being spoken about as the Crown Counsels for the Ministry of the Environment, Jeavon Hulse kept referring to parcel 4607 verses 4670.  Argüelles made a submission that the parcel in question is not certain since the court could not distinguish which parcel he was speaking of. Hulse said that the error in 4607 verses 4670 is a type error that could be remedied but attorney, Argüelles argued that the court was not the place to make that error correction and that bringing a matter before the court in such a manner is not proper and the court should strike out the matter.

After hearing all sides, Senior Magistrate, Aretha Ford adjourned the matter for February 6, 2019 when she will make a decision as to how the matter will proceed.

Readers will recall that filling of the land had commenced on January 10, 2019. Thereafter the Department of the Environment attempted to issue a stop order but that was ignored. It was not until Friday January 25th, after a strong police presence accompanied officers to the site that they work was halted. During that process the officers were verbally roughed up by Zabaneh but he finally acceded and the work has come to a halt.

Zabaneh has been attempting to fill parcel of 4670 from in 2006 but was stopped as a resident of the area filed an injunction against his actions. Since then, that injunction has been lifted and now the Department of the Environment has filed a stop order. Zabaneh’s mother, Primrose Gabourel has title to the land that is being filled and it was issued in December of 2005 under the PUP administration. The property, however, was carved out of the sea bed and is currently part of some of the residents’ sea front.