The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) says as it continues its fight against smuggling, their Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) from January 2018 to date has been able to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars in Customs Duties, Excise Taxes, Environmental Levy and Value Added Tax (VAT) and fines.
Moreover, GRA said it confiscated significant quantities of commonly smuggled items which include alcohol, foreign chicken and mosquito coils.
According to the GRA on May 2, 2018, following another sting operation on the Atlantic Ocean, Officers intercepted a Motor Vessel containing hundreds of boxes of foreign chicken and mosquito coils.
This publication was informed that the Captain and two Sailors who were on board the vessel were apprehended and placed into custody. They were identified as first time offenders.
However, GRA noted that many of the perpetrators are repeat offenders, while outlining that “Second time offenders will be liable to pay three times the duties and taxes as a fine. Third time offenders may be prosecuted and/or be allowed to pay three times the value of the item as a fine, as compensation in lieu of court proceedings. These offences in many cases also result in seizure of the goods and confiscation of the vehicles involved.”
The revenue authority noted that whistleblowers have significantly improved LEID’s performance and the agency’s revenue collection, while commending the general public “in aiding the Authority efforts in stamping out this activity.”
“The LEID operations exemplifies the GRA’s commitment to deter, disrupt, and prosecute individuals who attempt to import prohibited items, and evade the payment of their fair share of duties and taxes” said the GRA.
Even with this recent bust, questions still linger over the recent fuel vessel that was intercepted by GRA which contained over 200,000 gallons of unmarked, undeclared fuel. The vessel is reportedly linked to a senior Government official, among other notable figures.
GRA Commissioner General Godfrey Statia, had said that the vessel was not seized, but the Agency has impounded the vessel until the taxes have been paid. He noted that the directors of the company that own the shipping vessel will have to pay some $36 million in taxes to GRA.
The political opposition however, has since expressed concerns over what it said was the “special treatment” that this particular investigation was receiving.
Among other things, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had said that it was “aware that the law provides that in such a circumstance, the boat is liable for forfeiture, the owners are liable to a fine of treble the value of the amount of tax evaded, as well as being liable for criminal charges. This is the regime of treatment to which the ordinary Guyanese is normally subject in similar circumstances. It begs the question, why this particular vessel attracts special treatment.”
As such, the PPP made calls for the Auditor General to launch an investigation into the matter, since they are of the belief that “this case is being handled differently because the vessel is owned by several persons who are deeply connected to the Coalition Government.”