“Yes, the Brijnanans have been my close family friends for over 25 years. What is wrong if I borrow their vehicles? I also ride motorcycles and use other vehicles because of what I do on a daily basis. I have to be cautious. The issue is that they want us to be side-tracked in our work to expose the wrongdoings.”- Publisher, Glenn Lall
In a move clearly designed to embarrass Kaieteur News for exposing widespread corruption, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), on the instructions of a sitting Government Minister, yesterday took custody of two vehicles which belonged to family friends of its Publisher, Glenn Lall.
Lall and his wife, Bhena, two prominent entrepreneurs in the country, would from time to time drive the vehicles which were brought in under a re-migrant programme by Narootandeo and Gharbassi Brijnanan.
There is nothing in the law that bars a re-migrant from lending a vehicle that was granted under concessions to a friend or even to another family member. Under the conditions, the Brijnanans were barred from leasing or transferring the vehicles within three years of registration. None of these conditions were breached as the documents were all in the names of the Brijnanans.
If this occurs, the pro rata tax will apply, meaning that the applicants would have to pay taxes. None of these conditions were breached by the Brijnanans and nothing in law bars the re-migrants from lending their vehicle to family or friends.
As such, the conditions under which the vehicles were detained by GRA were yesterday deemed illegal by law experts. At the time of the seizure the vehicles were at the registered address in the possession of the re-migrants’ son.
As such, there were huge question marks about the grounds advanced by GRA’s Commissioner General, Khurshid Sattaur, and the entity for moving to seize the vehicles.
The drama involving GRA and the police started Friday evening at Continental Park, a residential area adjoining Republic Park, East Bank Demerara, as they attempted to remove the two Lexus’ -PRR 8398 and PRR 8399- from the home of Navin Sankar, son of the re-migrants.
He objected on the grounds that the vehicles were lawfully and legally imported and entered Guyana through the relevant agencies.
Sankar also enquired on what grounds the vehicles were to be removed and proceeded to show the ranks the documentation from GRA granting the exemption along with the necessary clearance documents along with the registration.
The ranks insisted that they would have to remove the vehicles, notwithstanding the documentation. The Brijnanans were not at the home at the time. They were in Berbice.
The standoff continued yesterday until Sankar voluntarily took the vehicles into the GRA bond at the Eccles, East Bank Demerara.
The move by GRA came as no surprise as only two weeks ago, a vehicle assigned to a top Government Minister was caught on camera photographing one of the Lexus’ while it was parked outside Kaieteur News Saffon Street offices.
Publisher Glenn Lall, who has been receiving constant threats for his newspaper’s exposure of several instances of corruption, has been using several vehicles, including motorcycles, as part of his security detail. From time to time, he and his wife had been using the two Lexus also.
Kaieteur News, also, as part of the investigations into the logging scandal, had been asking searching questions of GRA and the role it played in granting hundreds of millions of dollars in duty free concessions to Bai Shan Lin, a Chinese company, and others.
The granting of concessions by GRA was done even before the approval was given to Bai Shan Lin to start logging in its concessions.
Among the duty free concessions granted were for two high-end Sports Utility Vehicles- an Infiniti Q series and a Lexus similar to what the Brijnanan’s had brought into the country. The approvals for those two vehicles were found to be highly irregular as vehicles and other concessions granted to investors have to be consistent with their activities.
The Guyana Forestry Commission had made it clear that it does not grant duty free concessions. Commissioner James Singh had referred questions to GRA.
Sattaur, when asked, said that GRA does not grant duty free concessions unless it has received the proper applications and paperwork. He also said that GRA was barred from giving out information on applications for duty free concessions.
However, several Customs documents which he said were confidential, were leaked to the Guyana Chronicle by GRA, regarding the Brijnanans application for duty free concessions.
There was no doubt, therefore, that the move Friday night was designed to bring Kaieteur News into a bad light. Media houses were tipped off and invited to be present. A person who identified himself as a reporter from a prominent, independent newspaper even visited Kaieteur News indicating that he was sent by his editor to enquire of the raid. The newspaper, he said, had received a tip-off.
Other television channels were also calling in, a signal that the move was a well-orchestrated public relations stunt.
The Guyana Chronicle and the Guyana Times, a newspaper with links to the Government, were alerted also.
Yesterday, GRA’s tinted vehicles were parked in front of Sankar’s Continental Park home, keeping watch.
According to Sankar, GRA officials, some of them his colleagues, came knocking late Friday evening. They said that they were there to take away the two vehicles which they said were at the centre of an investigation.
When shown the documents for the vehicles, they could find nothing wrong but insisted that they still have to take them away.
“I then spoke to my lawyer and he advised me that GRA will need to present a court order. They had not done so and so, based on my lawyer’s advice, I asked them to leave. I told them that the vehicles belong to my parents and the documents I produced substantiated this.”
GRA officials were seen talking to Sankar a number of times.
Shortly after 14:00hrs, the two Lexus’s were driven out by Sankar and another man and taken to the GRA bond at Eccles.
In a short statement to the media, Sankar said that after conferring with his legal counsel and family, he decided that the best course of action would be to take the vehicles in.
“We are looking at our legal avenues and will be addressing this matter more at another forum.”
Yesterday, Kaieteur News’ Publisher, Glenn Lall, said that he was convinced that it was a vicious act by GRA and “some Government officials” in retaliation to reports by the newspaper on corruption and questionable deals involving public officials.
A few weeks ago, Kaieteur News carried an article in which questions were raised about three of Sattaur’s children working under him at the GRA. This obvious act of nepotism would not have been allowed to happen in other parts of the world.
But Sattaur sought to justify this act. He claimed that his children, who are British-born, did not want to live in England because it is too cold. He added that his children had a right to work and he employed them, especially since he wanted to keep them under his eyes.
Yesterday, Lall said, “Yes, the Brijnanans have been my close family friends for over 25 years. What is wrong if I borrow their vehicles? I also ride motorcycles and use other vehicles, even from my staffers, because of what I do on a daily basis. I have to be cautious. The real issue here is that they want us to be side-tracked in our work to expose the wrongdoings.”
Lall added that the GRA Commissioner is the one who ultimately grants the application for duty free concessions.
“The buck stops at his desk. Guyana is watching. People are no fools; they are intelligent people. They know the true reason for this charade and would understand it is also a personal attack on two decent Guyanese remigrants who believed in their country and came back here to live.”
It is by no accident that GRA chose to target these vehicles at this time although they have been in the country for nearly two years, he said.
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