Tax authorities have started a probe into an alleged racket in which the Chinese embassy was used to bring in containers of goods for its nationals who are operating businesses here
The matter was reportedly raised by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently.
According to well-placed Government officials this week, GRA late last year stumbled on what seemed like an abnormally large number of containers brought in by the Chinese embassy.
As a matter of fact, when GRA officials checked, they found that the Chinese embassy brought in more containers than all the other embassies combined.
Investigators initially believed that maybe there was a mistake with the number of containers.
However, further checks confirmed that the embassy allegedly used its diplomatic channels to pass the containers through the wharves.
Under the diplomatic arrangements, shipments and packages for embassies are not too closely scrutinized.
It is the belief that the containers were filled with all sorts of items – from hardware and other accessories – which eventually ended up in a number of Chinese-manned stores. It meant very little or no taxes were paid on the items.
Kaieteur News was not told exactly how many containers, but officials insisted that they were enough to be equivalent to tens of millions of dollars in lost taxes.
Contacted this week, Commissioner-General of GRA, Godfrey Statia, was reluctant to delve into details.
He said that since being appointed last year by the administration, he has overseen the tax collection agency embarking on a number of initiatives to widen the tax base and also close some areas that were being taken advantage of over time.
“We have been losing billions overtime because of tax evasion, smuggling and other areas. We have started tightening up in some areas and we are seeing improved collections there.”
Statia made it clear that he is not allowed by law to share details of any tax transaction. He declined to confirm or deny that a complaint was launched with the Foreign Ministry.
However, while Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, could not be reached yesterday, a number of officials acknowledged that a complaint was lodged at the ministry.
Local businesses have been complaining of being unable to compete in terms in prices against the Chinese especially, no matter how they tried to bring down costs or purchasing directly from the manufacturers.
GRA has reportedly been looking into instances to determine the extent of under-invoicing but it is unclear what sanctions, if any, have been taken against a number of businesses that have been found guilty.
There have been reports of a significant amount of goods being smuggled from Suriname also.
Landscape of the city has changed significantly in recent years with traditional store owners renting out their properties or selling out to a number of Chinese, Brazilian and other nationals.
Regent, Robb and Church Streets are but a few of the main shopping area that have been experiencing the changes.
China, one of the largest producers of goods, has been aggressively expanding their reach in countries across the globe. Guyana has been one of the countries that it has been seeing an influx of Chinese businesses, workers and projects.
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