Internal meddling at the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) led to the highly questionable release
of an armour-plated Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) over two weeks ago.
The matter has angered enforcement officials of Customs and the political opposition. It has raised questions about the integrity of the enforcement arm of the authority.
GRA has been largely silent on the matter and no police report has been filed that the vehicle in question had a false number plate.
Rather, the tax collection agency has disclosed that a $31M payment has been agreed to with BK International Inc., the contractor to whom the vehicle reportedly belongs.
According to GRA’s sources, officials of the Customs Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) were on duty over two weeks ago.
In the vicinity of Palm Court, a popular night spot on Main Street, their attention was drawn to a pearl white, 2014 Toyota Land Cruiser, which had PJJ plates. It would have been impossible for a 2014 model to be fitted with a PJJ plate, as those serial numbers were issued more than a decade ago.
The officers became suspicious and waited around for a while, but no one came near the vehicle.
The officers, according to GRA sources, then went into Palm Court, and asked the deejay to summon the owner of the vehicle. A man came and introduced himself as “a close family member” of Brian Tiwarie, owner of BK International Inc., a prominent contractor for the state.
He was unable to explain the number plates or produce the documents. The man reportedly called
The officers also informed their superiors at the Customs Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID). However, before the men could take possession of the vehicle, they were called and told to stand down. They were told that the matter would be dealt with on the following Monday.
According to sources, the officers were perturbed and upset, as not even under former GRA head, Khurshid Sattaur, and former president, Bharrat Jagdeo, had something like this happened. They thought that that was the end of the matter and they felt humiliated.
But it appeared it was only the beginning.
Kaieteur News was told that on the Monday morning, following the incident, LEID head, Fitzroy Corlette, walked into the office and “in a very intimidating voice” asked who had been “peeking” into BK’s vehicle.
One staffer immediately said that it wasn’t him. Another one said that he was only doing his job.
Corlette reportedly came out later from his office and informed the staffers that the matter had been settled. He reportedly asked if they had heard him “loud and clear”.
The issue has rocked the credibility of GRA which has been attempting to rebuild a tarnished image under the new administration.
The vehicle had arrived and was released in 2014 to BK without the necessary paperwork at Customs completed. It was never completed.
With the change in government, a new Board of Directors was named and Godfrey Statia was appointed Commissioner-General last year. However, the entity has continued to face troubling questions.
Its Customs chief, Lancelot Wills, was sent on his annual leave recently after revelations that he was granted a duty free concession on a SUV when he should not have been.
There were further alarms raised after it was discovered that attempts were made to cover up the transaction by tampering with the entries.
Recently, the Opposition expressed alarm over the two incidents and said that investigations should be done to find out who ordered BK’s vehicle to be released.
With regards to Wills’s vehicle, GRA’s Chairman Rawle Lucas, insisted that the systems at the authority are working.
Under the laws, it is a crime to have false number plates on a vehicle. It carries up to $1M in fines, and two years jail. A number of persons have been jailed since the laws were amended in the 2000s.
Corruption within Customs has been causing a loss in tax collections of billions of dollars, over the years.
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