Sunday, July 13, 2008

Safeek charged with “falsifying a declaration to customs” -granted $2M bail

Safeek charged with “falsifying a declaration to customs” -granted $2M bail
Guyana Times. Thursday, 10 July 2008 23:12 Theleisha De Souza

Joshua Safeek, one of the men accused of being at the centre of the Polar Beer corruption case, was granted bail in the sum of $2M after he appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates Court yesterday charged with “Falsifying a declaration to customs.”

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) had filed the charge under the Customs Act against Fidelity Investments Inc for making the false

declaration for a shipment of Polar Beer last month after the company was the subject of an investigation into the evasion of customs duties.

According to the police, it is alleged that on or around June 25 2008, Joshua Safeek willfully used a fake document that was required by the customs laws, and purported it to be an invoice that was delivered from Polar Beverages Inc, which is located in Avenue De los Corlijos De Lourdes in Caracas, Venezuela.

The invoice was reportedly given to the GRA for the assessment of duties and taxes payable on goods imported. Fidelity said that it paid $8.7M in duties for the shipment of beer.

The matter was heard before Principal Magistrate Melissa Robertson-Ogle where 43-year-old Safeek, an investor at SAFICO, denied the allegations that were made against him.

The accused was represented by Attorney-at-Law Hukumchand, and the matter will be heard again on September 12 in Court 6.

Another person who was jointly charged with Safeek for being instrumental in falsifying the document for Fidelity Investments Inc did not make an appearance in court yesterday.

In a prior statement, GRA’s legal officer and prosecutor in the case, Gino Persaud, said that two weeks ago, Customs seized two containers of Polar Beer after it was found that the value of the commodity was way below what Customs had accepted last year for the very commodity.

As a result of this most recent accusation, Fidelity Investment Inc on Wednesday responded by saying that the Commissioner General of GRA Khurshid Sattaur was trying to tarnish the image of the company.

The company accused the GRA head of trying to cover for “corrupt” customs officers involved in the polar beer scam. Officers of the GRA are currently involved in another investigation of the company which is similar in nature: customs duties were evaded through alleged false commodity declaration.

The customs agent reportedly struck a deal with customs officers to clear the Polar Beer under the category of ‘assorted soft drinks’, which attracts less duty than beer. The sum of $32M was then paid to the revenue body in taxes and another $70M was paid to a top customs official who allowed the shipment to leave the wharf.

According to a statement by the company which was read to reporters at Cara Lodge, this is the third time that Mr Safeek and his companies have been charged by Mr Sattaur.

In 2007, the company started importing Polar Beer from Venezuela at what it referred to as an introductory price in order to compete with the smuggled Polar Beer.

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