Giftland Mall owes $25M in taxes- CoI hears

An aerial shot of the Giftland Mall
An aerial shot of the Giftland Mall

Management of MCG Investments Inc which spearheads the operations at the Giftland Mall has not paid any taxes to the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) for the past four years, as the company states that it is awaiting an agreement to carry out the demanded payments summing up to over $25M.

Consultant of MCG Investments Inc, Ray Hugh represented the chairman of the company Roy Beepat at Wednesday’s Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the puzzling state of affairs at City Hall.

Being required to provide an explanation into the back and forth clash between the Town Clerk, Royston King and Beepat, the consultant indicated that a notice was sent to the company for a total of $44,255,183 in 2017. However, a meeting was facilitated between the two on November 2, 2017, where it was decided that all rates and taxes including penalties and interests would be waved completely for the years 2015 and 2016.

Hugh said, “It was agreed at that meeting that taxes for the years 2015 and 2016 including interests and penalties would be waved. Interests and penalties for 2017 also would’ve been waved. The demand then [for 2017] would’ve been $11,467,500 and it was agreed that MCG Investments would provide a payment schedule to the Mayor and City Council.”  

This was so because the company had carried out a private contractual bargain to fix the roads, drains and to install streetlight. Garbage collection was also done privately throughout the area and as such, the company was not benefitting from any services that were provided by the Council.  Additionally for 2017, Giftland Mall would only be required to pay a sum of $11,467,500 after the interests and penalties would’ve been waved.

“M&CC had done nothing for that area. No lighting or drainage. It was all done by MCG Inc, garbage collection, disposal is done on a private contractual basis. That road also services a gated community in the rear of the mall,” said the consultant.

King was required to respond via a letter after the engagement to confirm the agreements and a schedule would subsequently be sent by Beepat, verifying how the payments would be made.

However, King made no attempts to answer to the decision that was taken until April of this year, where he indicated via a letter that the agreement ‘no longer stood’ because of the lapse of time and ‘certain circumstances’.

The document further mentioned, “The Chairman of the Finance Committee had agreed to meet and discuss with you the way forward to settle your accounts with the Georgetown.”

The Commission also heard that another letter was issued by the Town Clerk the following May, stating that the Council took a decision on April 28, to impose a fee of $25,263,750 instead of the previously agreed sum of $11,467,500.

The company has not paid any taxes since 2015 and is contending that City Hall has to come to the table with an explanation as to why the extra costs were attached to the initial sum.

Hugh would’ve indicated that Beepat had written several letters to the Town Clerk, informing him of the arrangement that was set but there was no reply.

When the matter was raised by the legal assistant, Sherwin Benjamin as to why the principle rates for the past four years were not paid, Hugh responded, “I don’t see without an agreement, just going ahead and paying something because they can say if you pay part of it, pay the whole thing. The agreement was that after we received the letter [from the Town Clerk], we would send in a payment plan.”

Benjamin posited, “Every citizen of Georgetown can say that there isn’t an agreement so they’re not paying taxes. That would be a sad day for this town. At the very least, your company should pay the bear taxes for 2017.”

As a consultant by profession, Hugh was probed to give a recommendation to the council to which he stated, “I would say clean it up. It seems like everyone is doing their own thing at City Hall and we need someone to make sure that proper plans, structures and an overview is put in place.”

To date, monies are owed by the Giftland Mall at Turkeyen on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) for taxes dating back to 2015. (Rupa Seenarine)



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