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Kaieteur News publisher, wife on self-bail for alleged tax evasion

Glenn and Bhena Lall outside the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court

Publisher of the privately-owned Kaieteur News newspaper, Glen Lall and his wife, Bhena Lall, were Monday arraigned on tax evasion charges in connection with two Lexus SUVs that were imported by an elderly couple under the duty-free re-migrant scheme.

The Lalls pleaded not guilty to the charges and were released by Chief Magistrate, Priya Sewnarine-Beharry on their own recognizance.

They were ordered to return to court on November 24, 2014.

Defence Lawyer, Khemraj Ramjattan had requested reasonable bail.

A number of observers have claimed that Lall was prosecuted several weeks after his newspaper had targeted the Chinese investment company, Bai Shan Lin, as having allegedly benefitted from hefty duty free concessions.

The Kaieteur News had also hired a helicopter and captured photographs of several areas under Bai Shan Lin’s control to prove its claim that the country was being raped of logs rather than their use for value-added production. The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and Bai Shan Lin have separately refuted those claims and assured that the trees are being harvested in a sustainable manner in keeping with local laws and regulations.

After the two SUVs were seized, Kaieteur News then published e-mail correspondence purportedly between Attorney General, Anil Nandlall and Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Kurshid Sattaur to show that there was a plot to shut down that newspaper.

Several days later, the GRA issued a statement saying that the email were  bogus and  said that the police would be called in to probe how Kaieteur News could have obtained sensitive taxpayer information. “Having regard to the extreme length at which the Kaieteur News would go to prevent this audit, including corrupting officers of the GRA or others unknowns to divulge sensitive and confidential information, creation and publication of fake emails, public statements suggesting audit of the company will result in its destruction, it is evident that the company may not be compliant with the tax laws.

The Lalls  and re-migrants- Naroontandeo  and Gharbassi Brijnanan -were arraigned for allegedly evading import duties between June 18 and September 2013 and knowingly aiding and abetting each other in doing so in violation of the Customs Act. Particulars are that false declarations were allegedly made to the amount of US$44,158 for the two vehicles.

The vehicles are two Lexus LX570 bearing chassis numbers JTJHY7AX6 D4094851 and JTJHY7AX6 D4096745 and licence registrations PRR 8398 and PRR 8399, with engine capacities of  5700 cc.