Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fidelity Investments fostered GRA corruption probe

Kaieteur News news items, Friday 09 May 2008
Fidelity Investments fostered GRA corruption probe

More than three million bottles of 'soft drinks' were cleared by Customs for
Fidelity Investments but investigators are yet to find one of these bottles,
Head of State, President Bharrat Jagdeo said. Quite a few of the Customs
officers said that they saw 'soft drinks', he added.
However, when asked to describe the drinks the officers gave varying
descriptions, President Jagdeo added.
But even as the investigations continue at the Guyana Revenue Authority, the
Head of State is looking at overseas companies who can handle investigations
of serious financial frauds and forensic audits.
According to President Jagdeo, he has requested information from the U.S.
Government and has since got a list of companies that are involved in such
investigative work.
The Head of State stressed at a press conference on Wednesday that he hopes
that members of the GRA are not 'just only going to be dismissed'.
"I have seen quite a few of the members of the GRA dismissed and I hope that
that is not the end of the matter. The people who are involved should be
prosecuted," the President said.
He noted that Fidelity Investment broke the law and will have to face the
"The case we are building now is largely because of Fidelity saying to us
that they did not import soft drinks but instead imported beer. The police
questioned all the people in the warehouse and they said that they never saw
soft drinks yet several Customs officers cleared soft drink." The correct
import duties were not paid because there was corruption.
The company, the Head of State noted, claimed that it gave the import duties
to the broker and the broker split the money with the Customs officers so
that they would change 'beer' to 'soft drink' on the manifest.
Based on the entire scenario, the President repeated the need for plea
bargain legislation.
"I have spoken about this (plea bargain legislation) repeatedly so that
people who are involved could become state witnesses. Then you will be able
to make a case. The only reason we could have done it in this case is
because one of the importers is willing to say that (the company) did not
bring in soft dink but beer. How many others would come forward?"
Last January, a team of GRA enforcement officers went to the Fidelity
Investment bond where, after identifying themselves, they requested several
records including registers, Customs declarations and tax and sales invoices
for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages imported and sold by the
GRA officials also went to the company's head office at Regent and Oronoque
Streets to uplift other documents.
An inventory was also ordered at the Ruimzeigt bond of the company.
While the officers were carrying out investigations, Fidelity Investments
secured three injunctions against the GRA.

GRA officers not part of investigating task force
- Auditor General
Auditor General (ag) and Head of the task force investigating the alleged
fraud within the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Deodat Sharma, yesterday
cleared the air on misconceptions that officers of the revenue agency are
part of the task force.
The Auditor General in a press release stated that the task force comprises
representatives of three agencies: the Ministry of Finance, the Guyana
Police Force and the Auditor General's office.
"The task force in the execution of its functions will from time to time
require the assistance of senior GRA officers to provide necessary
explanations and clarification on operational and procedural matters.
However, these persons do not form part of the investigating team," the
release stated.
Some media houses had carried reports that GRA officers form part of the
investigating task force, raising the question of the credibility of the
task force.
The Commissioner General of the GRA, who has been tasked with the
responsibility of facilitating the investigation by providing the requisite
documents and staff as required by the task force, is also not part of the
team, the press release stated.
Further, it noted that the task force "sees these reports carried in the
media as erroneous, misleading and designed to create mischief, and urges
persons to desist from engaging in such practices and allow the Task Force
to perform its functions unhindered".

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