Tax info leaks un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - GRA’s Com­mis­sioner-Gen­eral, Khur­shid Sat­taur.

Aglobal ac­coun­tancy body has started the process to hear a com­plaint of un­eth­i­cal be­hav­iour and abuse of of­fice by the (Guyana) tax chief, Khur­shid Sat­taur.

The com­plaint, made last month by Kaieteur News, was filed after a num­ber of damn­ing emails dis­closed a shock­ing plot to use au­dits of the Guyana Rev­enue Au­thor­ity (GRA) to si­lence out­spo­ken me­dia houses and more specif­i­cally Kaieteur News.

In those emails, the Com­mis­sioner-Gen­eral al­legedly breached se­crecy reg­u­la­tions and leaked con­fi­den­tial tax in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to Kaieteur News and other me­dia houses, in­clud­ing Stabroek News.

Al­ready, Kaieteur News has for­warded de­tails to the As­so­ci­a­tion of Char­tered Cer­ti­fied Ac­coun­tants (ACCA) which is based in London. The com­plaint fol­lows one filed last month to the lo­cal ac­coun­tancy body, the In­sti­tute of Char­tered Ac­coun­tants of Guyana. That body has al­ready started the process to hear the com­plaint against Sat­taur.

ACCA is the global body for pro­fes­sional ac­coun­tants. Mem­bers of ACCA are re­quired to ob­serve proper stan­dards of pro­fes­sional con­duct.

ACCA will take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against its mem­bers, firms and regis­tered stu­dents where there is ev­i­dence of a suf­fi­ciently se­ri­ous fail­ure to ob­serve those stan­dards. Once ACCA has re­ceived a com­plaint, it may de­cide to pro­ceed with its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, de­spite a later re­quest that it may be with­drawn.

Any neg­a­tive find­ings against the em­bat­tled head of GRA by the bod­ies will def­i­nitely have a long-term im­pact on his pro­fes­sional stand­ing and cred­i­bil­ity within the ac­count­ing com­mu­nity.

ICAG, in a re­ply to the com­plaint, last month dis­closed that in­deed, the Com­mis­sioner-Gen­eral is one of its mem­bers. “The Coun­cil of the In­sti­tute con­sid­ered the con­tents of your let­ter and the as­so­ci­ated at­tach­ment at its meet­ing of 14th Oc­to­ber 2014. It has been agreed that the mat­ter will be re­ferred to the In­ves­ti­ga­tions Com­mit­tee of the In­sti­tute in ac­cor­dance with our bye-laws (sic).”

It is not of­ten that one hears about a com­plaint against a mem­ber of the ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion. This one has sig­nif­i­cance be­cause it in­volves the head of the coun­try’s tax col­lec­tion agency.

The of­fi­cial com­plaint, which was prompted by the il­le­gal re­lease of con­fi­den­tial tax in­for­ma­tion, said that Sat­taur is guilty of mis­con­duct in of­fice by his acts.

Glenn Lall, the Pub­lisher of Kaieteur News, said that Sat­taur, as a Char­tered Ac­coun­tant, was in breach of a statu­tory Dec­la­ra­tion of Se­crecy, and of the law, when he pro­vided in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing the tax af­fairs of sev­eral news­pa­per pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies to for­mer Pres­i­dent, Bhar­rat Jagdeo, in Septem­ber.

The Pub­lisher also in­cluded copies of leaked emails that Sat­taur had ex­changed with Jagdeo and At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Anil Nand­lall.

“While only of tan­gen­tial im­por­tance, the emails demon­strate that Mr. Sat­taur, who is the Com­mis­sioner-Gen­eral of the Guyana Rev­enue Au­thor­ity, is us­ing his po­si­tion in an im­proper man­ner amount­ing to pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct,” the com­plaint by Lall in­di­cated.

Those emails, pub­lished over re­cent weeks by this news­pa­per, re­vealed a shock­ing plot by top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sat­taur, to go after a num­ber of pri­vate news­pa­pers and news en­ti­ties that have been highly crit­i­cal of projects and the way tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars are be­ing spent.

Kaieteur News has been at the brunt of the of­fence by Gov­ern­ment which has been un­der in­creas­ing crit­i­cisms for a num­ber of ques­tion­able con­tracts and deals with in­vestors.

Sat­taur had be­come angry after the news­pa­per pub­lished a re­port which ques­tioned the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of his three chil­dren and other rel­a­tives work­ing un­der him in key po­si­tions at that state agency. He ad­mit­ted in those emails sent Septem­ber, that he had used the threat of tax au­dits to suc­cess­fully si­lence Fred­er­ick Kis­soon, a popular, long­stand­ing colum­nist in Kaieteur News.

The Op­po­si­tion has sig­naled in­ten­tions to have Sat­taur in­ves­ti­gated by par­lia­ment for those tax leaks to the for­mer Pres­i­dent. There have also been sev­eral calls for him to re­sign.

Last month, GRA, led by Sat­taur, filed pri­vate crim­i­nal charges against Lall and his wife after seiz­ing two SUVs be­long­ing to a rem­i­grant cou­ple who are fam­ily friends of the Pub­lisher.

GRA con­tends that the Lalls are the real own­ers. How­ever, the Pub­lisher made it clear that he and his wife would nor­mally use the ve­hi­cles as part of a fleet, in face of se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the ve­hi­cles were taken away from the home of the rem­i­grants.

The charges and an in­creas­ing num­ber of law­suits from peo­ple close to and at­tached to the gov­ern­ment, as well as the emails, are strong ev­i­dence of gov­ern­ment back­ing a plan to si­lence an out­spo­ken news­pa­per, Lall said.

More re­cently, there was the recorded con­ver­sa­tion be­tween At­tor­ney Gen­eral Anil Nand­lall and a Kaieteur News se­nior re­porter. In that con­ver­sa­tion Nand­lall spoke of peo­ple com­ing to the news­pa­per of­fices to shoot up the staff and the pub­lisher.

(Kaieteur News, Guyana)

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