Oct 25, 2015 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo recently urged the new government not to use the all important Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to get information on entrepreneurs. That can have serious repercussions on the economy and can cause citizens
to lose trust in the system, he said
As he made such a plea, the Opposition Leader was reminded of the era when members of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government used the Authority to target individuals with whom it did not find favour.
Last September, Kaieteur News published two sets of emails; one between GRA Commissioner, Khurshid Sattaur and former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall and the other between Sattaur and Jagdeo.
The emails provided insight into a plot to destroy Kaieteur News as a result of the exposés the newspaper had been carrying concerning the operations of the executive and Sattaur.
But that incident probably slipped Jagdeo’s mind as he initially warned the government not to use GRA as a political tool.
Jagdeo told the media on Friday that he had major concerns about the economy as it was grinding to a halt. The Opposition leader said that the distress of the economy is not just reflected in growth rate, but “in the loss of income and the loss of jobs. My fear is that we may have several financial crises long before we have an economic crisis particularly with the currency and with our banking system.”
The former President said that he recently visited Region Five and held several community meetings. He then indicated that at those fora he met with some businessmen who had grave misgivings about the Bill that is currently before the National Assembly. The Bill he referred to was the Financial Institutions Amendment Act.
Jagdeo said the Region Five businessmen are “Worried that GRA will be used politically to go after their information in the banks. I am very fearful of what this can trigger many of them to do and they probably will pull their money out of the system.”
Jagdeo stressed that if this happens there will be a large scale movement of resources switching to US dollars or it may be externalized as capital flight.
“This could cause major problems with our currency and I urge the government to be careful about the signals that they are sending because if that were to ever happen we will trigger a crisis of unimaginable proportions in this country.”
Asked how he would compare the fears of the Region Five businessmen to what actually happened in 2014, Jagdeo did not deny the authenticity of the email but denied being directly involved.
He said, “The email was copied to me. I was never party but that is Kaieteur’s fabrication. I received a copy of something, an email; I had never sought information on private individuals, never.”
That was the first time that Jagdeo ever spoke publicly about the emails.
He was asked if he views the disclosure of the information as wrong. To this he responded, “Khurshid was dealing with a sitting AG and I do not know what engagements they had with government business. The AG deals with legal issues and Sattaur deals with tax collection; that’s an official channel.”
Asked why he who was not in Government at the time was copied in the email, Jagdeo claimed ignorance.
He said, “I do not know. People copy tons of things to me. Why they copy them, I do not know. I cannot answer that but people send lots of stuff.”
The former President said that even the most hostile people against the PPP cannot claim that the GRA or any state agency was used in a political fashion under the PPP.
“Let me state an example. You are talking about example, let me give you an example, Guyana Stores of Glenn Lall and Tony Yassin for 10, 15 years had no annual General Meeting and as a public company they should have been struck from the register,” said Jagdeo.
He continued, “Today I heard a number of people hired for the enforcement department of the GRA, check who they are. I heard most are political and ex army people.”
Jagdeo further stated that, “In light of what is happening people are fearful that their record will be used for other purposes. So I can understand the sentiment out there and I am not saying this is my sentiment. But once that catches on… you can expect a large number of businessmen feeling insecure.”
When the emails were revealed, Sattaur contended that whatever he did was covered in law and as such he had nothing to hide or to be afraid of.
Asked whether he denies that he did in fact share tax information of privately owned media houses with the former President Bharrat Jagdeo, Sattaur said, “No comment.”
“Let them dig more and write what they want…Let them write it in ‘dem boys’,” said Sattaur.
Kaieteur News had published a redacted email sent from Sattaur to Jagdeo, where he divulged tax information of several privately-owned media houses.
In another email, to Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Sattaur informed him that he had provided the former President with “Information which I would expect he treats with the utmost confidentiality.”
Sattaur informed Nandlall that, “Since we are in this thing together, I see no harm in sharing this with you. However, further to the assurances you have given me that the Government will be pursuing the newspaper for libel and other offences of a criminal nature, I will await the determination of such action before I provide you with the details on Kaieteur News.
“Of course I am deeply indebted to the Government for the confidence it places in me to continue to execute my duties as CG.”
The email went on, “I spoke with the honourable BJ and he suggested that the recent outrageous article published on me should for “media purposes” be attributed to the impending major audit of the Kaieteur News which in his usual irregular and surreptitious manner, the newspaper was able to uncover.
“Please note however, unless there is a major gag order from the court with a threat of maximum imprisonment, I am not prepared to have this most recent proposed action made public…This as they say in proverbial language is likely to break the camel’s back and the individual may go berserk.”
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