Atlantic International Bank Limited facing difficulties due to Sanctuary Belize Real Estate Scam
Saturday, March 30th, 2019
The multi-million dollar real estate scam ‘Sanctuary Belize’ is allegedly affecting Atlantic International Bank Limited (AIBL) once more. AIBL was first named in the said fraudulent scheme in November 2018. The San Pedro Sun understands that because of that scheme, AIBL is experiencing some serious difficulties in the offshore sector, following a civil suit recently filed in the United States of America. As such, it is alleged that the bank may scale back and even seek voluntary liquidation as the organization is reportedly facing difficulties in conducting business.
The lawsuit was reportedly filed on March 8, 2019, and involves a group of 18 persons, who along with other property owners, seek to create an owner’s association to represent the over 1,000 investors that were affected in the Sanctuary Belize scheme. The number of funds invested in the purported luxury real estate development is more than US$100 million.
In November 2018, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) discovered the alleged scam and stated that apparently, AIBL had assisted and facilitated Sanctuary Belize. AIBL however, has denied any affiliations with the project and noted back in 2018 that it would cooperate with the FTC to resolve the matter. The bank, which claims to be one of the few that enjoys corresponding with the USA, was contacted by The San Pedro Sun to comment on these latest developments. Initially, they stated that a press release would be sent out, but afterward, they declined to comment.
On Wednesday, March 27th, the Central Bank of Belize issued an official statement regarding the current issue of AIBL. The communique stated that the Central Bank has received certain information and has initiated remedial actions to protect the interests of depositors and customers. The bank continued by saying that it has not undertaken any actions relative to the operations of AIBL, and the matter continues to receive its attention and the public is assured that Central Bank is assessing the situation closely and will act as appropriate and in a manner consistent with its statutory mandate. AIBL is the second international bank that has been involved in such trouble, after Choice Bank, which was shut down by Central Bank in June 2018.
The scam via Sanctuary Belize was operated by a twice-convicted felon, Andris Pukke, who along with other associates, promised clients a piece of Belize. They promised potential investors world-class amenities on a 14,000-acre property reportedly owned by the Sitee River Wildlife Reserve in southern Belize. According to the indictment from the FTC, the business did not only go by the name of Sanctuary Belize, but was also known as Sanctuary Bay, Global Property Alliance, Buy Belize, Buy International, Eco Futures, Sittee River Wildlife Reserve, The Reserve, and The Marina at The Reserve.
The scam strategy worked by attracting potential buyers to invest in the so-called real estate project. They would be brought to southern Belize and lodged at luxurious resorts, particularly in the Placencia Peninsula. The potential investors would be taken for an informational tour of the property by Sittee River. Many of the investors fell in love with the beauty of the area and the dream sold to them that they could be part of a luxury development. The development would also include an American-staffed hospital and an international airport. According to the FTC, buyers promised that their properties would be developed and the value of these would rapidly appreciate. However, instead of getting their dream homes, they found themselves losing their hard-earned retirement savings. It is believed that the investors’ monies were used to pay a loan connected to Pukke’s bail from jail and to finance his high-end personal lifestyle and home in California, USA.
The deceptive packages saw customers buying lots between $150,000 and $500,000 right away, or via large down-payments followed by sizable monthly payments. Clients did not receive the title of their properties nor were their properties developed as promised by the developers. According to FTC, when clients could not continue payment or stopped paying for their lots, they were resold without terminating the previous owner’s interests, which resulted in more than one victim of the scheme having an interest in the same lot.
At press time, AIBL continues its daily operations. A formal statement is still pending from the bank following the latest development regarding its future in Belize.
The San Pedro Sun will continue following this story.
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