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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
02TEGUCIGALPA2829 2002-10-09 20:11:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

NEW LAND CASE IN ROATAN GOOD TEST FOR GOH RESOLVE

Tags:   EINV EAID EAGR PGOV AMGT HO 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TEGUCIGALPA 002829 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EB/OIA, INR/B, WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC, WHA/EX

LABOR FOR ILAB, ROBERT WHOLEY

STATE PLEASE PASS TO USAID FOR LAC/AA, USTR, EXIM, OPIC,
USED IDB, USED WB, USED IMF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV EAID EAGR PGOV AMGT HO
SUBJECT: NEW LAND CASE IN ROATAN GOOD TEST FOR GOH RESOLVE

REF: Tegucigalpa 01756



1. (SBU) Summary. American citizens Jean and Roger Moore
were suddenly and forcefully evicted from their Roatan home
in August of this year when the Melvyn McNab family
presented (and local judicial officials accepted)
unsubstantiated arguments that they had claim to this land.
A recently done cadastral survey by the GOH indicates that
the McNab claims are not true. President Maduro, Supreme
Court President Vilma Morales, land registry officials and
local government representatives in the islands are all
aware of this case. The Supreme Court has brought the case
to Tegucigalpa to investigate for irregularities. The
Embassy believes the dispute represents an important test of
the GOH's professed interest in improving legal protections
for investors and positioning the Bay Islands for increased
investment and tourism. End Summary.



2. (SBU) The Moores, and several other Americans, purchased
their beachfront lots in Paya Bay on the island of Roatan
from Amcit Eric Anderson in 1994; the property that he
subdivided is known in the land registry as plat number


306002. He had full title to the land. Anderson also has
an adjacent property, Plat 306001; it is this adjacent
property, purchased in the 1960s in the name of another
Honduran islander (at that time expats were not allowed to
own land near the coast) that has been the source of a
property dispute with Melvyn McNab since 1996. This year,
however, McNab has expanded the dispute by providing to the
courts a redrawn map that changes the shape and location of
the disputed property (306001) to include the lots Anderson
sold to the Moores, Meyers and other Amcits. The official
cadastral survey of the islands, just completed this summer,
clearly shows that the Moores' land is located in plat
number 306002.



3. (SBU) On August 28th of this year, Jean Moore sent a fax
to the Embassy describing their forceful eviction on August
22nd from their home on the island of Roatan, Honduras.
According to the Moores, on August 9th, they received a
phone call from their caretaker who had been physically
removed in handcuffs from the house. Judge Casco took
possession of all house keys from the caretaker. The McNab
family then placed guards around the Moore's house and
property. The Moore's arrived on Roatan on the 17th and
were denied access to their house. Their attorney filed a
petition for an appeal for relief under the Honduran
Constitution, an amparo, to stop the eviction act. The
petition was denied. In the following days the Moores and
their attorneys tried to demonstrate their clear title over
the land and convince the judge to overturn his ruling,
without success. On the 22nd, the Moores were told to
follow the police to their property. The McNab family,
several police officers, including the Chief of Police, and
the McNab's attorney were all present as the Moores were
forced to remove all their personal belongings from their
property in a 2 hour time period. They were not allowed to
lock the house and had to leave several items behind. The
Moores report that there is already a family of six living
in the Moore house and some of their property has been
damaged.



4. (SBU) Econoffs put the Moores in touch with Octavio
Sanchez, a legal advisor to the President, and Henry
Merriam, coordinator of a GOH program to complete cadastral
surveys and unify the land registries throughout Honduras.
They arranged to have a copy of the official survey of this
part of Roatan prepared. The catastral survey appears to
fully support the American citizens' assertion that the
Honduran party has no legal grounds for their claim to the
Moore's property.



5. (SBU) On September 11th the Embassy sent a letter signed
by the Charg d'Affaires, Roger Pierce, to President Maduro
and Honduran Supreme Court (CSJ) President, Vilma Morales
with copies to Investment Minister, Camilo Atala, Tourism
Minister, Thierre Pierrefeu, and Cesar Batres, Godofredo
Alvarado and Octavio Sanchez, legal advisors to President
Maduro, stating the Embassy's concern about this case and
the apparent disregard of investor rights. Econoffs visited
Roatan on September 26-29 to emphasize the importance of
fair treatment of Amcit investors in general, and quick
resolution of the Moore dispute in particular, in
conversations with the Governor, municipal authorities,
judicial authorities and the local land registry
representative. We also met with the director of the IDB-
funded Tourism Ministry project that performed the usd 1.5
million cadastral survey and urged rapid integration of the
cadastral results with the existing land registry.



6. (SBU) Partially as a result of Embassy advocacy, the
Moore case has received rare high-level attention in the
GOH. We are aware that President Maduro, CSJ President
Morales and the Minister of Interior (Gobernacion y
Justicia) have discussed the case. Supreme Court President
Morales instructed the court in La Ceiba to send the case to
the Tegucigalpa courts to be reviewed for judicial
irregularities. CSJ President Morales told econoff on
October 2 that the review will occur quickly and that she
will notify the Embassy of the results of the review.



--------------------------


Background on the Legal Issues in the Dispute


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Background: In the 1960's, Roy Anderson bought a
15-acre parcel of land in Wilkes Point, plat number 306001.
At that time, U.S. citizens weren't allowed to purchase land
so Mr. Anderson bought the property from the McLaughlin
family using a Honduran woman named Merly Cooper and
registered it under their company name, Calico S.A.



8. (SBU) In 1974, Roy Anderson purchased a second parcel of
land totaling 17 acres directly from the McLaughlin family,
as the law now allowed foreigners to own coastal land under
certain conditions (small private investor, tourism, etc.)
This second parcel is adjacent to the first, and is located
in Wilkes Point West - with plat number 306002. In 1994,
Roger and Jean Moore purchased two lots from Erik Anderson
(Roy Anderson's son) on parcel 306002.



9. (SBU) Mervin and Lurlene Cooper de McNab own land
adjacent to Wilkes Point West called Paya Bay. Lurlene
McNab's maiden name is Cooper. The McNab's are claiming
that Lurlene is the sole heiress to the deceased Merle
Cooper's land, however Merle Cooper never married and had no
children, therefore has no heirs. The inheritance battle is
over parcel 306001 (the 15 acres purchased through Merle
Cooper.) The Moore property is on parcel 306002. However,
Mervin McNab pulled up all the fence lines and survey
markers between the two properties that runs North to South
and re-drew the map to show that the 15 acres runs East to
West along the coast cutting through both parcels (map faxed
to desk). The official Government survey that was recently
completed using GPS, satellite tracking, and topographical
surveys clearly shows the delineation of the two parcels,
with no depiction of the McNab redrawn parcel.



10. (SBU) We understand from judicial authorities that under
Honduran law the Moores' property should not have been
subject to the confiscation because they are not a party to
the underlying dispute. And, in fact, when the Moores first
appealed to the judge to rescind the eviction order, the
judge agreed, noting the Moores' name did not appear on the
court documents. Rather Erik Anderson was the defendant for
a 15-acre parcel in Wilkes Point. However, when the Moores
went to the police station to pick up their keys, the judge
had changed his decision, and the eviction order was
enforced. The Moores believe the McNab's attorney, through
her political connections, was responsible for the change in
the judge's decision.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





11. (SBU) We consider this an important test case for the
GOH's resolve to attack the endemic problems of land title
and abuse of the judicial system. The Bay Islands have a
history of problems of this type, but the new cadastral
survey and the proposed land registry project together
provide the government and court system with an important
set of tools. We are hoping that the political will exists
to ensure that a rapid and just resolution for the Moores'
case (and the other Amcits who purchased property from Eric
Anderson) can be found. End Comment.

PALMER