GRA takes Van West Charles’ fuel company to court for falsifying invoice

Former Managing Director of the Guyana Water Incorporated, Dr. Richard Van West -Charles

A fuel company owned by former Director of the Guyana Water Incorporation (GWI) Richard Van West-Charles, a prominent supporter of the APNU/AFC, is once again in the spotlight.

The company, Atlantic Fuels Inc., is accused of making a false declaration to the Guyana Revenue Authority. Commissioner-General of GRA Godfrey Statia has since instituted legal proceedings against the company in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.

GRA is alleging that on November 12, 2020, at its Camp Street, Georgetown Headquarters, Atlantic Fuels caused to be made and subscribed a false declaration on Invoice number 100 contrary to the Customs Act. A Police rank has already served a summons on a representative of the company who has to appear at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on January 4, 2021.

The charge was instituted under Section 217 (1) (a) of the Customs Act which reads- “Any person who, in any matter relating to the customs, or under the control or management of the Comptroller- (a) makes and subscribed, or causes to be made and subscribed, any false declaration; or…”

On summary conviction, the person is liable to a fine of $25,000, together with imprisonment for three years. In November 2015, Charles was granted a license to import/wholesale and store fuel by the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA). The license is valid until 2025. The company’s address is listed as Lot 16 Sublot ‘A’ Mudlot, Kingston, Georgetown.

This is not the first time the fuel company has been under the tax agency’s radar. In 2019, the company was under investigation by GRA for under-invoicing and falsifying invoices. As a result, GRA went after the fuel company for taxes for that year.

Also, in 2019, a city business, South American Breaking and Recycling Inc., filed a lawsuit against Van West Charles, his company, and China Zhonghao Inc., over a fuel deal that reportedly went bad. South American Breaking and Recycling Inc claimed that it entered into an agreement with the parties in a joint venture using the licence of Atlantic Fuels to import fuel.

According to court documents, it was agreed that South American Breaking and Recycling Inc., would import 639,000 litres of diesel at US$0.61 per litre and then sell it to China Zhonghao for $198 per litre. But South American Ship Breaking and Recycling Inc. claimed that its partners flouted the agreement.

The company further claimed that it was bypassed after Atlantic Fuels entered into an arrangement with China Zhonghao. The company alleged that the fuel shipment amounted to $126.5 million and that Atlantic Fuel and Van West Charles refused to refund $12.4M in expenses it had incurred.