– a most disturbing piece of “extrapolation”
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, has slammed the Guyana Times newspaper, owned by former
President Bharrat Jagdeo and a close friend, Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, over a report regarding the remigrant duty free scheme.
According to the Minister, the newspapers dishonestly twisted her words in a report published yesterday under the headline – “Remigrant scheme scam… Keep scheme, convict, jail fraudsters until Glen Lall, other matters completed– Minister”
Guyana Times, along with the state-owned Guyana Chronicle has been on a smear campaign against Kaieteur News.
Yesterday, the Minister took to her FaceBook page to clarify the Guyana Times report in which a reporter, Jomo Paul, had apparently asked a number of questions pertaining to the re-migrant scheme.
The full text of the Minister’s statement reads: “I read the article in today’s Guyana Times which carried a very eye catching caption- “Remigrant scheme scam… Keep scheme, convict, jail fraudsters, until Glen Lall, other matters completed – Minister.” To tell the Guyanese public that I as Minister have said that we must “Keep scheme, convict, jail fraudsters” is totally dishonest and a most disturbing piece of extrapolation by the Guyana Times. Moreover, I did not engage in naming anyone since it should be noted that the audit started long before any individual issue came to light. I was also very clear in my written response to Mr. Jomo Paul that the audit will be instructive in how we move forward. This type of journalism makes me sad when I know what we are capable of.”
The scheme, which allows overseas-based Guyanese to return home and bring in vehicles and other assets without
having to pay the normal taxes, has been coming under increasing scrutiny.
Remigrants have to apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to become eligible for the scheme, and then the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has to approve the tax waivers.
In recent weeks, following startling disclosures that GRA’s Commissioner-General, Khurshid Sattaur has three of his children working under him at that tax collection agency, the attacks on Kaieteur News have been on the increase.
Sattaur was also angry after he was asked by this newspaper about duty free concessions he granted to Chinese logging company, Bai Shan Lin. Some of the vehicles included Lexus and Infiniti SUVs. Under the regulations, vehicles have to be consistent with the investments being made and this appears not to be the case with the Chinese company.
In a move seen as a retaliation and strike to shut down the newspaper, GRA descended on the home of a remigrant couple in late August, seizing two vehicles that they had brought in. The vehicles in question were used by the Publisher of the Kaieteur News and his wife, who are close friends of the two remigrants. There is nothing in the law stopping a re-migrant, who has been granted concessions on a vehicle, from lending it to another person.
Nevertheless, the GRA filed private criminal charges against Glenn Lall and his wife, Bhena, saying that they evaded taxes, among other things.
In September, a number of shocking emails came to light in which Sattaur shared tax information on Kaieteur News and other media houses with former President Bharat Jagdeo. It was viewed by many experts as a clear breach by the GRA’s boss
of the country’s secrecy laws regarding tax information; information which Sattaur had himself said cannot be released.
The emails spoke of a plot to silence Kaieteur News, using audits by the GRA.
Sattaur, in the emails, admitted that he had used the threat of audits successfully against Freddie Kissoon, a popular columnist with the Kaieteur News who received up to nine tax assessments at one time.
Complaints against Sattaur have been filed by Lall with the local and international accounting bodies, to initiate investigations to determine whether the official abused his office and professional ethics that he is sworn to uphold.
The Opposition has sworn to have Parliament also address the issue with the Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, demanding that Sattaur step down in face of the revelations.
Yesterday, calls to the Minister’s office and to her mobile were not immediately returned.
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