Probe continues into $$M GRA scam
Investigations are continuing into what is emerging to be a major scam
involving the issuance of duty-free letters at the Guyana Revenue Authority.
According to GRA yesterday, it will be making the outcome of the probe available at the appropriate time.
Reports of the investigations were covered by Kaieteur News earlier this week and then by the independent daily Stabroek News yesterday.
GRA, however, in a released statement slammed the coverage of Stabroek News, noting that premature statements could have far-reaching consequences on investigations.
As a matter of fact, GRA said that only a few staff of the GRA are privy to the information disclosed in the media. “…therefore, it can be logically deduced that such information emanated from one or more of the persons who are privileged to be in possession of same. As such, the GRA views the act by the newspaper of reporting such sensitive information during the course of the investigation to be highly unprofessional.”
The tax authority also repeated accusations that it is “aware that media houses would pay for information”.
According to GRA, so far, all that has been established from the investigation, and which was reported to the media through a press release, is that two junior ranks forged the signature of senior officers.
“This was done in order to perpetrate the fraudulent issuing of concessions for items of equipment that may be free of duty under the tariff.”
Over the weekend, GRA sources said that more than $100M in taxes may have been evaded as a result of the “forged” tax exemption letters. The concessions were for All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) used in the mining and agricultural industry.
The tax agency said that the fake signatures were affixed to Remission of Duty Letters (commonly referred to as CG or Tax Exemption letters) used for issuing duty-free concessions for the ATVs and the mining equipment. Under normal circumstances these vehicles would have attracted concessions for eligible applicants.
GRA had initially said that it would appear to be more a case of officers being paid in order to avoid complying with the necessary documentary requirements, commonly referred to as ‘expedition’ inducement.
However, insiders over the weekend insisted that the letters and signatures were not forged, that they are the “real things”, but were granted illegally to importers, mostly city businesses.
The ATVs (four-wheel motorcycles) are being sold in some cases for as much as $3M. They are used mainly in the mining and agricultural areas in the hinterlands. Farmers and miners are the ones that would have to apply for the tax waivers.
They would have to submit approval documents from the relevant agencies and ministries, including the Ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, among others, to GRA, where they will be checked before approval is granted.
According to GRA sources, in all likelihood the supporting documents were not submitted and as a result GRA’s system managed to pick up the scam.
It is believed that GRA may have lost as much as $150M in duties and other taxes.
Since the investigation started, one of the officers implicated has been transferred.
Earlier, this month, GRA said the detection was made as part of the routine system of checks and balances in place to prevent such occurrences.
The officers were found culpable, but denied the allegations. But according to GRA, irrefutable evidence from the records of the Division which facilitates tax exemptions, has implicated them.
GRA’s Commissioner-General Khurshid Sattaur said that while the agency would never be able to avoid the occurrences, “we can however detect them, weed out the corrupt elements and take them to task swiftly.
When all the evidence has been gathered, the matter will be placed in the hands of the Guyana Police Force for full investigation, GRA said.
“I hope and would expect that the guilty parties, both the officers and the businessmen, are charged and placed before the court,” Sattaur had said in the statement.