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GRA in standoff during efforts to seize vehicles for duty free concession probe

One of the vehicles at the Continental Park residence of the GRA officer.

Up to late Friday night, there was a standoff at Continental Park, East Bank Demerara between enforcers of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and one of their colleagues who allegedly refused them access to seize two vehicles that are at the centre of a duty-free concession dispute.

The GRA alleges that although the Lexus vehicles were imported by a couple ,who benefitted from the tax and duty waivers under the re-migrant scheme being managed by the Foreign Ministry, they were not in possession of the beneficiaries in whose names they were registered and the mandatory six-month reporting period was not adhered to.

Instead, the GRA said that the vehicles were in possession of Publisher of Kaieteur News’ publisher, Glenn Lall and his wife.

GRA Commissioner General, Kurshid Sattaur told Demerara Waves Online News that the tax agency had a legitimate right to seize the vehicles because the intended beneficiaries were allegedly not using the vehicles. “If there are any reports about the vehicles not being used by the re-migrants, then those vehicles can be subject to serious reprimand or the re-migrants can be subject processes under the Customs Law, seizure and all of that,” he said.

Sattaur claimed that one of the GRA officers prevented the enforcers from the tax agency from entering his premises at Continental Park where the vehicles were believed to have been located up to late Friday night. Sattaur claimed that the GRA officer told his colleagues that lawyers have advised that the enforcers need a court order to seize property. “My officers cannot be removed from anyone’s premise if they are there officially to conduct their business and I was told that the lawyer advised this person that he can use reasonable force to remove my officer,”  Sattaur said. The Tax Chief said GRA officers receive a Writ of Assistance annually from the Court to execute their duties of searching and seizure.

The GRA Commissioner General planned to take legal action, through Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, against the Kaieteur News publisher for alleged threats and intimidation during the course of the tax agency executing its duties.

Asked whether he would be taking disciplinary action against the GRA officer for alleged obstruction of duties, Sattaur said he was contemplating doing so but would have to rely on the relevant advice.

The Kaieteur News newspaper recently published a photograph of a vehicle in possession of an official of the Chinese logging company, Bai Shan Lin, and stated that millions of dollars in tax concessions had been waived as part of a sweetheart deal with the Guyana government. That newspaper has also reported that the company has received several other tax concessions from the GRA.

Bai Shan Lin’s operations here have in recent weeks been under the spotlight for alleged excessive exports of logs  in breach of local laws and regulations as well as international standards.

However, the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has rejected those claims by providing some statistics and explanation of procedures for logging and log exportation to prove its case.