Apr 15, 2016 News
Minister of State Joseph Harmon has finally given an explanation as to what led to accusations of his
interference in a seizure operation that was being carried out by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) on Chinese logging company, BaiShanLin.
Harmon said that on March 17, last, representation was made to him by an official of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Guyana on an urgent matter affecting one of their national’s company operations in Guyana.
The Minister said he was advised that personnel of the GRA had gone to the premises of BaiShanLin in furtherance of a Tax demand by the Authority of $1.5 billion dollars.
The Minister explained that the GRA personnel were intent on seizing movable assets of the company. He said that the Chinese official explained that the principals of the company were not in Guyana and requested a stay of execution of the GRA’s action for 14 days pending the return of those principals, at which time they would go into the GRA to settle their indebtedness.
He said that the Embassy official also gave the assurance that none of the assets of the Company would be removed, during that grace period.
Harmon said that considering the importance of Guyana/China relations and the urgency of the matter, he made contact with the GRA and requested the facility.
The Minister of State said that this request was granted. He said that at the expiration of the 14 days requested, the GRA proceeded with its work.
Harmon said that several reports in the media on the matter conveyed “the erroneous impression” that he had used his official Government position to interfere in GRA’s work.
The politician noted in his statement to the media that reports alleged also that there were corrupt dealings with the company involved in the intended actions by the GRA.
Harmon said, “I refrained from making a public response to those reports earlier because my actions were linked to Guyana’s diplomatic relations and its pursuit of foreign investment that would be beneficial to the people of Guyana.”
The Cabinet Secretary said that his colleagues in the Government have now been fully briefed on this and other matters, currently in the public domain.
When Kaieteur News first published a story on Harmon’s interference in the work of GRA, it was confirmed with the entity’s Chairman, Rawle Lucas.
Lucas had said, “I expect that this matter would be dealt with accordingly. At this stage I really can’t give any further comment. But at least we have a Minister (who could conduct an investigation).
Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan had also promised an investigation into the veracity of the allegations.
Since then, Lucas made it clear that officials within the entity have recommitted to doing their work without fear or favour.
The Chairman had said, “The GRA is going to carry out its duties and its responsibilities, and it has recommitted to doing so without fear or favour. We are all about restoring confidence in this agency and ensuring that mistakes of the past are not repeated.”
Asked what measures have been put in place to ensure that the situation does not reoccur, Lucas categorically stated, “Clear instructions have been given that all officials must, and I repeat, must complete all assignments.”
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