Amidst a systematic wave of attacks against the Kaieteur News by Government, evidence has surfaced that Head of
the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Khurshid Sattaur, has been making other moves on his own.
He attempted to solicit information from International Police (InterPol) and the US Embassy in Georgetown.
However, both the Embassy and Interpol last month rebuffed Sattaur’s attempts for information. From the US Embassy he sought personal information on two remigrants who are United States citizens.
The embassy immediately wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs citing procedural breaches and advised the Ministry to restrain Sattaur.
The Embassy in a reply which was addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month, said that it could not accommodate the request, explaining that it must be forwarded through the “correct channels”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs seemed to have been caught unaware of Sattaur’s request for information, and called on the GRA boss to follow the correct procedures in the future.
The Foreign Ministry in turn wrote the GRA Commissioner General asking him to forward such request through the Ministry, providing details of what he wants and the actions he is seeking.
Sattaur did not stop at the United States embassy.
He wanted to trace phone calls which he said were made to him by Glenn Lall from the United States of America.
Sattaur alleged that during the telephone calls, Lall threatened him.
For the telephone call information, Sattaur wrote InterPol, Washington DC. He wanted a record of calls made to his phone
and the owner of the telephone number.
However, that international security organization in its response made it clear that it is barred from releasing the information.
“Our apologies, but the US authorities are prohibited from obtaining subscriber information from US-based communications companies without the issuance of a subpoena, court order, and/or search warrant.
“This means that in order for your judicial authorities to obtain the requested subscriber information, a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) request, or ILOR must be forwarded through the US Department of Justice Office of International Affairs.”
InterPol said that as far as the request was concerned, the matter was closed.
Sattaur’s move to the international bodies was sparked by emails between himself, former President Bharrat Jagdeo and Attorney General Anil Nandlall.
The emails which were published by this newspaper, revealed a secret plot to use state audits as one of the ways to stop media reporting on a number of highly corrupt and issues embarrassing to the GRA and its Commissioner General.
The emails include confidential tax information sent to Jagdeo and a copy, minus the tax information on Kaieteur News, to Nandlall.
The exchanges also spoke of how successful the threats of audit had been on several critics of the government, including Freddie Kissoon, a popular columnist for the Kaieteur News.
Kissoon received up to nine assessments at one time, a move Sattaur said in the emails was a like a sword of Damocles hanging over the columnist’s head.
In recent weeks, Sattaur using his powers as Commissioner-General, launched an attack against the paper, the largest
selling daily, after investigative reports revealed that he had employed several of his children and other relatives at that agency, placing them in key and sensitive positions.
As part of the plot, the GRA has filed trumped up criminal charges against the publisher, his wife and the two remigrants.
The tax chief and his superiors in Government were further angered when the newspaper questioned the granting of duty free concessions to the controversial Chinese company Bai Shan Lin.
Sattaur had commenced his campaign against the newspaper when he ordered his staff to seize two Lexus SUVs belonging to a re-migrant couple in late August. Those vehicles were used from time to time by Publisher of Kaieteur News, Glenn Lall, and his businesswoman wife, Bhena. The remigrant couple has been close family friends of the Lalls for decades.
The Lalls along with the remigrants were, however, charged with tax evasion and other Customs breaches.
The Lalls are to appear in a city Magistrate’s court tomorrow for those private criminal charges filed by Sattaur.
The actions of the GRA, with Sattaur at its helm, have caused great worry among several sections of the society, especially the Opposition.
Joe Harmon, of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), has already announced plans to file charges against the Sattaur for breaking the laws when he released highly confidential tax information to the former President who is now a private citizen.
Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan, has called for Sattaur to be removed and for an independent
investigation to be launched into those tax leaks.
Kaieteur News itself has filed complaints to the local accounting body against Sattaur for breaching the oath of secrecy he swore to when he was appointed.
Complaints have also been made to the local, regional and international media watchdog bodies.
The administration has been largely silent on the abuse of GRA powers, only questioning how Kaieteur News was able to acquire the emails.
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