Recent actions by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) have left some critics wondering whether the entity is sending mixed signals on the issue of false number plates.
It was last Thursday that GRA boss, Godfrey Statia, announced that the onus is on the police and not his Customs Officers to report irregular matters when it is noted in the daily newspapers.
His comments in this regard, were in relation to an armour-plated vehicle that came to the attention of alert Customs Officers, early last month.
Kaieteur News had related that the officers were reportedly on Main Street, when they spotted a pearl-white Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) near Palm Court, a nightspot. The 2014 vehicle had a PJJ number. That number had been issued about a decade ago, making it impossible for a 2014 SUV to bear that number.
The officers reportedly waited, but no one came to claim the vehicle. They then reportedly entered Palm Court and asked the DJ to summon the driver.
A man came up and introduced himself as a close relative of Brian Tiwarie, a senior principal of BK International Inc., a contracting company that has been bidding for state projects. He was unable to produce the documents for the vehicle.
The man reportedly called Tiwarie. The Customs Officers called their superior with Customs’ Law Enforcement and Investigation Department (LEID) and were later told to release the vehicle.
GRA confirmed that it had reached a settlement with BK for $31M. However, there was no word on whether a police report was made about the false license plates on the vehicle.
The laws are clear about false number plates – up to two years jail and $1M in fine. Since an amended law in the late 2000s, a number of persons have been jailed for just having fake number plates.
The police themselves said that no reports were filed.
Questioned why the matter of the false number plates was not reported to the police immediately, Statia made it clear that GRA does not do police work.
“I have said it before and I am going to say it again…GRA does not do police work. GRA is in the interest of collecting the rightful taxes.” The official stressed that that is where the “demarcation” comes.
“I have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers. I am not supposed to give the taxpayers’ information to anybody out there…after all, notwithstanding, they may be a sister agency.”
While the revenue authority would have taken such a position in the issue of the armour plated vehicle, it took quite a different stance on similar issues.
The other situation involves about 1000 vehicles which entered Guyana with foreign number plates and have not been traced. GRA investigations indicate that there is a recycling of number plates and the use of dual licence plates.
Statia would have indicated to this newspaper that the Guyana Police Force was contacted about the matter and asked to help prosecute the smugglers. People trick the Authority by resorting to number plates for vehicles which would have been involved in accidents and written off.
Contact between GRA and the police on this matter was made before it was signaled to and reported in the press.
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