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PUP Calls Out PM on BTL – GST Tax Scandal

July 05
12:59 2019

The People’s United Party (PUP) has written to Prime Minister Dean Barrow requesting full public disclosure regarding documents that show that BTL potentially owes the GST Department upward of $50 million in outstanding taxes, penalties and interest. PUP leader John Briceño and the party’s shadow minister for telecommunications Kareem Musa put pressure on the government this week during a press conference, calling out GOB for its lack of urgency, and its nonchalance in addressing the issue.

Briceño said the party has reviewed the available documents and have confirmed from their sources that they are valid. “BTL cannot deny the existence of this audit because there is a full report, hundreds of line items that were looked into…you need to ask who is telling the truth,” Briceño stated.

“Their common indecency, their total incompetence and the massive levels of corruption are destroying this nation,” he said adding that “never before has a government been so indifferent to all that has gone wrong, with our economy in shambles, our health system in crisis and our institutions in disarray it may soon come to a point where Belizeans will be forced to take more drastic actions…,” Briceño stated.

“We are now seeing evidence based on an audit report that was conducted by the GST Department that BTL has been grossly under-reporting its financials and has not been paying taxes,” Musa said. “They can’t pay their fair share of taxes but the rest of us have to? And this is the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen – why are there two sets of rules, one for the UDP and one for the rest of Belize?” he openly questioned. “So Belizean business people are subject to arrest but when BTL is alleged to have committed worse violations of the law, then there is nothing to see, nothing going on and not a penny owed. This is a blatant cover up,” he continued.

“These documents show that there is some $240 Million of under-reporting by BTL between 2012 and 2017. If that is a lie, then please tell us the truth,” Musa challenged the government. He pointed out the inconsistencies in comments by BTL Chairman Nestor Vasquez and Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, with Vasquez claiming there is no on-going audit and that BTL doesn’t owe, while Waight stated that an audit is currently on-going and that a meeting had been arranged to sort out the matter.

Briceño, whose family also owns a telecommunications company (SMART), explained that telecom companies are taxed GST at 19% so a marketing company is set up to sell talk time at 1.75%. “That is where BTL is playing with the numbers, trying to see how they can avoid paying some of the taxes. Basically that is what we have been informed from the people we have spoken to in the GST Department. That is the bone of contention, they believe that within their companies they should not be paying taxes when GST is very clear that you have to pay taxes on those sales,” he elaborated. The party says it expects Prime Minister Dean Barrow to take appropriate action in addressing the matter, now rather than later.

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