– after GRA alleges tax evasion charges on Lexus vehicles
Yesterday, Kaieteur News Publisher, Glenn Lall, and his businesswoman wife, Bhena Lall, appeared before Chief Magistrate Priya Beharry, and were released on self bail.
The Lalls were jointly charged with conspiring to evade taxes on two vehicles imported by two remigrants. The couple was also charged with attempting to defraud the GRA of revenue.
Publisher Glenn Lall, and his wife, Bhena, denied all the charges read to them in the court.
The court appearance came less than a month after a series of shocking emails between the Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Khurshid Sattaur, the Attorney General Anil Nandlall and former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, which spoke of a plot to silence Kaieteur News.
It was a packed courtroom that heard Chief Magistrate, Priya Beharry as she read the charges yesterday.
The court corridor, stairs, passageway and yard were filled with scores of persons who had turned out in solidarity with the Kaieteur News Publisher.
Vendors, lawyers, staffers of Kaieteur News and every other media house in the city were in the courtroom.
Outside there were dozens of others who had turned up in support of the Publisher and his wife. The couple was greeted with loud cheers when they emerged from the City Magistrates’ Court, after signing the bail documents.
The Lalls are being represented by a battery of high profile lawyers led by Senior Counsel, Rex McKay, Attorneys-at-Law, Khemraj Ramjattan, Nigel Hughes, Joseph Harmon, Robin Hunte, Brenda Glasford, Bettina Glasford and Christopher Ram.
Appearing for GRA were Attorneys-at-Law Sandil Kissoon and Mahendra Satram.
It was alleged that the Lalls, between June 18 and September 30, 2013, knowingly dealt with goods with the intention to defraud GRA.
It was further alleged, that the Lalls aided and abetted the evasion of duty on the two Lexus vehicles between June 18 and September 21, 2013. To all the charges they both pleaded not guilty.
Kissoon, representing GRA, told the court that two summonses could not be served on remigrant couple, Narootandeo and Gharbassi Brijnanan, since they were out of the jurisdiction. The couple has also been named in the private criminal charges drawn up by GRA.
According to Kissoon, the summonses would be served on the couple upon their return to Guyana in two weeks.
Ramjattan, who said that McKay, the lead counsel for the Lalls, could not make it for the hearing, appealed for self-bail, stressing that his clients were well-known with substantial assets in Guyana.
Kissoon did not object to bail and the Magistrate allowed the application.
Asked afterwards if he feels that there is sufficient evidence for a successful prosecution, Kissoon, the GRA lawyer, said that determination will be made by the court in due time.
“Our duty at this stage is to present all the evidence that is available, to the court, and the court will make a finding based upon the charges which have been filed against the defendants….
“Confidence is not a factor in these matters. Our job, like I’ve said, is to present the evidence that we have in our possession,” Kissoon told this newspaper.
Cheers broke out when Lall walked out the court with his wife by his side, arm-in-arm for the most part.
Also, there were Mark Benschop and trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis.
As the couple made their way out of the court compound, scores in the yard and by the court gates greeted the Publisher and his wife with a resounding round of applause. There were chants for the GRA’s boss to resign.
After interacting with the crowd, Lall walked to Kaieteur News office on Saffon Street, followed by a crowd.
As they made their way along Avenue of the Republic, the crowd was heard chanting “We want justice, Sattaur must go!”
Lall and his wife were charged several weeks after Kaieteur News published reports questioning the appropriateness of Sattaur’s three children and relatives being employed at GRA, a state-owned tax collection agency where sensitive information are stored.
Another report that Chinese investment company, Bai Shan Lin was granted luxury vehicles to conduct logging activities had also angered Sattaur.
GRA had refused to comment on the concessions citing confidentiality clauses regarding taxpayers.
In late August, GRA descended on the Continental Park residence of the Brijnanans, close family friends of the Lalls for over two decades, and officers moved to seize two Lexus.
The vehicles were brought in by the Brijnanans last year after their application for remigrant status was approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 3, 2013, and tax exemptions granted by GRA a few days later.
As part of their security, the Lalls had been using the vehicles belonging to the couple from time to time, including those two Lexus belonging to the Brijnanans.
The vehicles were at the home of the remigrants when they were taken to the GRA bond in Eccles, in late August.
Last month, a series of emails between Sattaur, the former President and the AG were published by Kaieteur News which detailed a plot to use audits to target Kaieteur News and other media critical of the Government.
Evidence has also emerged that Sattaur even approached the US Embassy and Interpol for information on the remigrants and Lall, without the knowledge of even the administration.
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