…new date set for trumped up tax evasion charges
The charge against Kaieteur News publisher, Glenn Lall, which claimed that he threatened
Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Khurshid Sattaur, was dismissed by Magistrate Alex Moore yesterday.
It was three months after an investigation was launched into the allegations, that Lall was summoned to appear before the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court.
The publisher of the local daily was being accused of using threatening language towards the GRA Head on August 29, last, at Plantation Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara.
Lall pleaded not guilty to the allegation; Magistrate Moore smiled and remarked, “Fortune smiles upon your favour”. The Magistrate went on to inform Lall through his Attorney, Khemraj Ramjattan, that a legal representative for Sattaur had addressed the court prior to his arrival.
He explained that Sattaur through his attorney, Joy Persaud, had refused to offer any evidence against Lall. The GRA boss, the Magistrate said, was no longer interested in pursuing the matter and did not plan to appear in court to testify against Lall. The matter was accordingly dismissed.
Following the announcement by Magistrate Moore, a round of applause erupted in the courtroom which was packed to capacity, largely with persons waiting to have their matters heard.
The threatening language charge had reportedly stemmed from a telephone conversation between Lall and Sattaur three months ago. Following the conversation, the Commissioner General cried foul and complained to the Police that Lall had threatened him.
He went further by going public with his allegations.
However, Sattaur, who spoke to Kaieteur News last Saturday, said that three months after the issue, when things have
died down, the charge serves nobody’s interest. He said that coming as it does now, three months later, highlights the incompetence of the situation.
“It will only acerbate the situation.” The Commissioner General was upset over the way the GRA was being dragged into political issues over which he had no control. “I am happy that the situation has normalized. My lawyers will act in the appropriate manner to suit the situation,” he had assured.
Speaking with reporters who had flocked the courthouse, Lall expressed hope that the authorities, in the same manner which they pronounced on this investigation, do the same with the profanity-laced recording during which Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, is heard speaking of a plot to kill Kaieteur News staffers.
He further noted, “This is disrespectful to the people of this country. This is not a mockery only to the judiciary, it’s a mockery to the nation, the police, the DPP and her office; it’s a complete waste of resources.”
His attorney, who is also the Leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC), told Reporters, “The farce continues and it goes to show that when they want somebody they would do all manner of things just to get them.”
“This may not be the end of it; they would probably want to bring on some other charges and a whole heap of other things to pressure the newspaper man that is doing such a wonderful job of exposing them.”
Asked what sort of message this sends to the ordinary man, Ramjattan said that it sends one intended to induce fear.
“So they don’t have any evidence, the witnesses are not going to come to testify but they charge. The fact of having to run to court with the little trauma that you will always have when coming to court is the fear that they’re diving in. But they should know Glenn Lall by now,” he affirmed.
Ramjattan said that no tactic of inducing fear or activity to make him (Lall) cower, will work.
Lall was accompanied by Kaieteur News Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, other members of his staff, family members and supporters, among them Social Activists, Mark Benschop and Freddie Kissoon.
Tax Evasion charges
Before his hearing at the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court, Lall and his businesswoman wife, Bhena, made an appearance before Magistrate Judy Latchman at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court where they were given a new court date for the alleged tax evasion case.
They were ordered to return on January 8, 2015 after the Magistrate was informed that the remigrants, Narootandeo and Gharbassi Brijnanan, who were set to respond to charges in the case, are currently in the United States (US).
The court heard that the couple is away because Narootandeo Brijnanan is undergoing a surgery. The couple has also been named in the private criminal charges drawn up by GRA.
The Lalls are facing joint trumped up charges of conspiring to evade taxes on two vehicles imported by two remigrants. The said couple was also charged with attempting to defraud the GRA of revenue.
In this case, the Guyana Revenue Attorney (GRA) is being represented by Attorneys-at-Law Sandil Kissoon and Mahendra Satram while the Lalls are being represented by a team of high profile attorneys led by Senior Counsel, Rex McKay.
Their team includes Attorneys-at-Law Khemraj Ramjattan, Nigel Hughes, Joseph Harmon, Robin Hunte, Brenda Glasford, Bettina Glasford and Christopher Ram.
It was Hunte who entered an appearance on behalf of the Lalls yesterday and the local daily’s publisher reported that the Brijnanans will return to these shores in December.
The charge against the Lalls detailed that between June 18, and September 30, 2013, they knowingly dealt with goods with the intention to defraud GRA. They are being accused, too, of aiding and abetting the evasion of duty on the two Lexus vehicles between June 18 and September 21, 2013.
The Publisher and his wife denied the charges when they appeared on October 13, last, before Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry. They were released on their own recognizance (self-bail).
That 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.
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 vehicles.
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.
The proceedings in the city court yesterday ended in about five minutes.
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