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Sep 14, 2016 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon
We have a new tax chief. I have to tread carefully with him. The last chief, Khurshid Sattaur, did not take too kindly to my constant criticism of his untouchables that he barefacedly protected. I have information of morbid tax evasion going back to the last fifteen years that is extremely shocking. They all occurred under Khurshid Sattaur. Let me digress briefly.
I may not publish my memoirs before I die because I do not think I want to be climbing the court steps every week for the rest of my life. At the rate trials take to finish, I will be in court everyday for the next fifty years (though I doubt I want to live that long). My point is that my memoirs will bring me dozens of libel suits. I mention this, because people who knew what Sattaur did turned around and supported him when the government did not keep him on.
I could mention what I know from this gentleman himself yet he turned around and publicly supported Sattaur. The going of Sattaur from the Guyana Revenue Authority was one of the best things that ever happened to this country. Tax evasion under Sattaur was a daily sport for multi-billionaires. I want to go on record as saying that when an independent foreign audit is done of the GRA, the information will be the most sordid ever to come out of this country barring the Rodney, Waddell and Crum-Ewing murders and the contents of the of the crime syndrome — 2002-2005.
Huge tax evasion by multi- billionaires under Sattaur’s watch went on for years. Gerhard Ramsaroop, formerly of the AFC, and a citizen who is well known, was in the car when this gentleman referred to the paucity of taxes one of Guyana’s richest contractors paid. Sattaur cannot survive a forensic audit. Let’s juxtapose Sattaur and the Chairman of the GRA, Rawle Lucas. Writing in his Stabroek News column, Lucas said that property tax brought in virtually nothing.
How do you stack this up against the fact that prior to 2014, property tax was payable on assets over $7 million. This is where Guyana achieves the irony of being a circus and a graveyard at the same time. If you have to pay property tax on assets over $7 million, then counting up the super-billionaires we have, how could Lucas write the words in the Stabroek News? Who to believe? Lucas or Sattaur? My answer is that I do not believe or ever believed a word that came out of the mouth of Khurshid Sattaur.
He didn’t collect property tax from these super-rich contractors; he never ever enquired. But he found time to write me; a UG lecturer on property tax whose only income was the pittance he received as salary from UG. He found time to demand in excess of $15 million from me from monthly income of $500, 000 I make at Kaieteur News. Only a fool or a complete idiot would ever believe that I ever earned $500,000 monthly for my columns.
Sattaur failed to make my day because he did not bring charges against me after Nigel Hughes wrote to tell him we would have our day in court. Had Sattaur gone to court, I would have subpoenaed a plethora of tax returns to show that the GRA was not collecting taxes from very wealthy people, including Bharrat Jagdeo’s infamous contractor and friends.
So we arrive at Geoffrey Statia, the man who replaced Sattaur. As I wrote above, writing about tax evasion has brought me “nuff trouble” from the GRA. Will Statia emulate Sattaur’s attitude when my pen starts to flow about tax evasion since May 2015? I don’t know Mr. Statia at all, never seen him, never talked to him. But this I know; there has been hundreds of billions of tax dollars that went into private hands because instead of paying those sums into the GRA, these private hands did not.
I remember when there was a huge exchange between me and Sattaur in the Kaieteur News, the owner of one of the largest hardware stores in Georgetown said to me when I went into his store; “Freddie yuh right, I myself gat to start paying some taxes.”
When the quarrel between me and Sattaur escalated, former husband of Gail Teixeira, Fazil Khan, met me and said, “Freddie, I know one of the richest men in Guyana who never even submitted a property tax form.” So I end with a question for Mr. Statia; are those super-rich contractors paying taxes? I know the answer. It is no.
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They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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That property tax basis has to be changed.
Far too low as even the squatters would be faced with it!