Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Minister gave $50,000 as gift

www.sun.com.fj - 18Feb 2008

An Interim Cabinet Minister accused of systematic tax evasion made a personal gift of fifty thousand Australian dollars, equivalent to seventy thousand Fijian dollars, from his Australian bank account that he claimed was intended for his community in Fiji, to his daughter in 2002.
The details of the gift, supplied by the Australian tax and bank authorities to the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority, are on the minister's tax files.
Last week, it was revealed how the minister, after claiming that the funds were held in trust for his people, had failed to provide evidence of a trust deed, and the bank accounts were in his name alone.
FIRCA, based on evidence supplied by the Australians, had confronted him as to why he did not disclose in his tax return the funds in Australia.
Now, a further analysis reveals that the minister had opened a cash management call account in one of the Australian bank's Sydney branches at Ryde, and on August 8, 1997, had an opening balance of $A58.16 in his name.
Three years later, on August 10, 2000, he made a deposit of $13,001.00 into that account, and four days later, on August 12, $502.80. Another followed the deposit of $503,000.00 on November 1, 2001. Between February 22, 2001 and March 20, 2003, he also made large deposits running into thousands of Australian dollars.By February 2001, he had over $1million in his bank account. The monies put into his Sydney accounts were in the form of cash and cheques, some were from investment funds etc. Naturally, between October 10, 2000 and March 20, 2003, the minister also made a series of small and large withdrawals towards property and other expenses such as spending money in camera, hardware and electrical shops, the purchase of airline tickets from Qantas and at Sydney’s international duty free shop. In June 2001, the minister gave a home in Sydney as his contact address but in October 2001 he changed it to a relative’s address in another part of a Sydney suburb as his home and correspondence address.
The non-disclosure of the Australian funds, I had pointed out, was detected by FIRCA’s Income Matching Unit, which sent the Cabinet Minister (who was not a minister at the time) a letter asking him to explain the omission.
The minister was subsequently taxed on the omitted income over the period 2001 to 2003. As late as last year, according to the sources, he still had unpaid taxes of about $60,000.
FIRCA staff who attempted to recover the tax debt were sent home, FIRCA sources claimed.
Meanwhile, on receipt of information from their counterparts, FIRCA’s investigating officers were instructed to verify the original sources of all deposits into the minister’s Australian bank account, details of bank withdrawals, a thorough analysis of some withdrawals below $5,000, confirmation of all assets of the minister in Australia, a check to establish whether there were any violations of the Fiji Foreign Exchange Act, and finally to audit his tax file to ascertain his true financial wealth.
The December 5, 2006 coup, executed to stamp out rampant corruption, cut short FIRCA’s investigation into establishing the truth about the real financial worth of the cabinet minister. And now his tax file has been locked away in the deepest vaults of FIRCA. The Interim Government, meanwhile, refuses to act against one of its own.
Efforts to obtain a comment from FIRCA’s chief executive Jitoko Tikolevu proved futile.

FIRCA called on to investigate tax evader

FIRCA called on to investigate tax evader
www.fijivillage.com - 19/02/2008

The Ousted Labour Minister has today called on the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority to investigate the alleged tax evading interim minister on where he collected money from since the year 2000 and why it has been deposited in foreign banks under his name.

Krishna Dutt said FIRCA needs to establish this as the source of the income should be fully investigated.

Dutt said the bigger issue is where the interim minister made his money from.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority maintains that an investigation has already been conducted into allegations of tax evasion against an Interim Cabinet Minister.

FIRCA CEO Jitoko Tikolevu confirmed that he is aware of an investigation that was conducted after a directive by the Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama last year.

However he stressed that FIRCA's stand on the matter remains as stated in an official statement by former FIRCA Board Chairman and current Interim Education Minister Filipe Bole on the matter issued on August 16th, 2007 when the allegations first surfaced through the media.

In the statement Bole said that that FIRCA wishes to make clear that there are no tax issues concerning ministers in the Interim government on which appropriate action has not been taken when required or warranted.

Village news questioned FIRCA Board Chairman Filipe Bole about the statement and whether the investigation was conducted against the Interim Minister for alleged tax evasion.

Bole said he was no longer FIRCA Chairman and could not recall sending the statement

Name the ‘tax’ minister: Labour member
19 FEB 2008 - www.fijilive.com
Outgoing Fiji Labour Party Nadi branch President Bijay Prasad will write a letter today to the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo demanding answers from the interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on the recent tax evasion saga.

Prasad told Fijilive that people are bewildered why the interim Prime Minister is not taking any steps to reveal the name of the interim Minister who is alleged to be involved in the tax evasion.

“I will send the letter today to the President’s office,” he told Fijilive.

“I’m writing the letter to the President ordering the PM to the Government House with answers”.

“People have the right to know who that minister is,” he said.

Commodore Bainimarama is sill in India and efforts to obtain a comment from him proved futile.

Bainimarama has already stated though that the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority has cleared all his ministers of any allegations of tax evasion.

Chaudhry questioned over dividend payments

A union member had questioned the whereabouts of dividend payments from a company which the union bought $100,000 worth of shares from.
National Farmers Union member Vijay Singh said members had not received any dividend payments for the last three years.
He claimed that the union had bought shares from Punja and Sons Limited on an agreement that union members would receive six per cent dividend payment yearly. He said the agreement was signed by union secretary Mahendra Chaudhry on July 19, 2005
But Mr Chaudhry denied that the union had shares in the company.
He said the union was offered to take up the shares but did not.
“They (NFU members) haven’t been receiving dividends because they don’t have any shares,” he said.
“The members were offered to buy shares but this didn’t happen. There is no share.”
Mr Singh maintained that other members were in the dark.
“I have questioned most of the members and even contacted our union head office in the North and I was told they too haven’t received any dividend payment,” he said.
Mr Singh said union members have questioned Mr Chaudhry on the dividend payments on numerous occasions but no explanation was given.
“The agreement had clearly stated that farmers were going to benefit from this initiative but no farmer in this country had received a dividend payout from Punjas and Sons Limited,” said Mr Singh.
“When we raise the issue in our meetings, Mr Chaudhry always ignored and refused to give an explanation but now the farmers want to know what has happed to dividend they were promised.”
Efforts to get comments from Punjas and Sons managing director Jagdish Punja last night were unsuccessful.

I’ll reveal minister: Tabu
Last updated 2/19/2008 -www.sun.com.fj

A trade unionist has threatened to name the interim Cabinet minister accused of tax evasion. Viti National Union of Taukei Workers general secretary Taniela Tabu yesterday said he would first deliver a letter to the Prime Minister's Office before announcing the name. "I'll publicly announce the minister's name and call on Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to sack him," he said.
Mr Tabu said he was not holding back despite the fact police had indicated there was no substance into the allegations.Then Assistant Commissioner of Police Crime Nasir Ali said in a letter to Mr Tabu dated August 17, 2007, that the documents (handed to the police by Mr Tabu) showed that the interim minister could "have directed or influenced persons employed in the Department of Inland Revenue to do any arbitrary act".
Mr Tabu had written to Cdre Bainimarama on August 9, 2007, drawing his attention to the tax evasion activities and the name of the interim minister involved.
"I had actually warned the Prime Minister that he cannot sweep the matter under the mat," he said.
On August 16, Cdre Bainimarama stated that he had directed the FIRCA board chairman Filipe Bole to look into the matter.
Last night, Mr Bole said they had investigated the matter. But he reserved his comments because he could not publicly talk about anyone's tax status.
"That is against the law," he said.
Mr Tabu said if the Interim Government failed to take any action against the minister it was sad because it was condoning dishonesty and corruption.
The interim minister owes more than $60,000 in taxes.
He has been accused of systematic tax evasion.
When confronted by FIRCA as to why he did not disclose in his tax return interest earned from his Australian bank accounts, he claimed he was holding the funds in a trust for his community in Fiji.
The non-disclosure was detected by FIRCA's Income Matching Unit, which sent the minister (who was not a minister at that time) a letter asking him to explain the omission.
The minister was subsequently taxed on the omitted income over the period from 2001 to 2003. .
FIRCA staff who attempted to recover the tax debt were sent home, sources claim.
Mr Tabu said what he was doing was in the best interest of the nation.
"I'm prepared to face the consequences of my action,'' he said.

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