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PM Says BTL Does Not Owe GST Confirms Ongoing Audit

PM Says BTL Does Not Owe GST Confirms Ongoing Audit
July 12
12:10 2019

Friday, July 12th. 2019 –

Prime Minister Dean Barrow, on Wednesday, finally responded to reports circulating over the last two weeks purporting that Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) owes upward of $50 million in outstanding taxes and fees to the General Sales Tax (GST) Department over a period of time from 2012-2017, asserting that the company does not owe any outstanding taxes but confirmed that an audit is ongoing.

“I thought that this matter had been spoken to by the Financial Secretary. He had said that BTL owes no taxes, BTL files and pays its GST,” Barrow said. For context, however, the comments Barrow references comes from an interview the Reporter did with Financial Secretary Joseph Waight when the news first broke and Waight did not say that BTL does not owe GST. In fact, Waight told this newspaper that there was indeed an audit of BTL’s finances ongoing and said that he did not agree with the value of the figure reported by the media. At no point did Waight say out-rightly that BTL did not owe a sum to the GST Department, in fact, he even spoke of a proposed meeting between the relevant parties to discuss and settle the issue. Unfortunately the media was not granted an opportunity to follow up with questions on this issue as it was the sole question allowed on the BTL matter at the very end of Wednesday’s two-hour press conference pertaining to the Sanctuary Bay real estate scandal.

“Now obviously, some issue has arisen as to whether there is any GST liability pertaining to some intra or inter-company transactions. An audit is being conducted and at the end of that audit a determination will be made. Clearly the position of BTL is that there is no liability of taxes in that regard but we have to wait and see what the GST department will determine,” Barrow said.

The Reporter had also previously spoken to the former GST Commissioner and the current acting commissioner, who both confirmed that an audit into BTL’s accounts with the department had been started and was underway. Interestingly, none of the officials we spoke with made any effort to dispel the reports that BTL was indebted to the department. BTL’s Chairman, Nestor Vasquez, was the only person to state categorically to the Reporter that BTL did not owe a “single penny” to GST or any other institution or department. Furthermore, Vasquez said he had informed the Financial Secretary that he was wrong and that he lied when he said an audit was ongoing. Vasquez said an audit had been conducted and completed months ago, and no determination was made that BTL owed anything.

The Prime Minister, the acting GST Commissioner, the former commissioner and the Financial Secretary, however, have all confirmed otherwise.

Barrow was also asked about a letter purportedly sent from Vasquez to the Financial Secretary, Waight, requesting a waver or a write off of the outstanding taxes: “Were you the ones who said that? Because when I read it I was astounded. You know what I can say about who said that…that I can’t say about the FTC? That is an outrageous lie. How can the people ask for a waiver of taxes they say they don’t owe? That is an absolute contemptible lie,” he declared.

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