Newspaper publisher faces fraud charges

In a clear case in which the government and its senior functionaries are abusing their state power, customs and revenue authorities have slapped six fraud and tax evasion charges against the owner and publisher of the Guyana’s leading daily newspaper in the midst of a simmering row over the paper’s unrelenting expose of alleged corrupt activities involving government officials and Asian investors, Chinese in particular.

Kurshid Sattaur, commissioner general of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) announced this week that Kaieteur News Newspaper boss Glenn Lall, 51, will be hauled before the courts on six fraud charges for trying to evade taxes on two Lexus SUV vehicles he and his shoe store owner wife had been using for months but registered in the name of two Guyanese-American remigrants from the U.S.

Remigrants are allowed to bring in vehicles and personal items duty free. Sattaur claims that the Lalls persuaded the couple to bring in the vehicles for them and had been using it as theirs but ensured that it remained registered to the couple so as to avoid being charged with fraud and evasion of taxes.

Lall who was in New York returned to the country this week only to be officially appraised of plans by the authority to haul him before the courts but he has since begun to release a slew of confidential emails involving Attorney General Anil Nadllall, Sattaur and controversial former president Bharrat Jagdeo plotting against him and displaying their palpable discomfort with the paper’s unrelenting expose of questionable state projects and commentary of those involved.

The transmissions clearly expose secret plans by the three to bring Lall and his paper down for daring to expose covert and overt corruption dealings involving high officials and foreign investors, especially those from China benefiting from red carpet treatment from government to invest in any area of their choice with lush tax free and other concessions.

Such concessions are oft times not offered to locals investing in the same industries.

Lall’s first court appearance on the criminal charges is scheduled for Oct. 13. If found guilty government could get its way as he, his wife and the remigrants could be jailed for up to five years and fined three times the alleged duty that was evaded.

The latest state of play represent the most desperate attempt yet by authorities to deal with him and other critics, including Guyana Observer News Publisher Mark Benschop who spent five years in a jail cell on a trumped up treason charge and former University of Guyana Professor Freddie Kissoon who faces a slew of libel charges stemming from daily political commentary in the Kaieteur News.

Despite clear evidence in the emails, Sattaur in the meantime, is openly denying that the charges are revenge for the newspaper’s recent publication of Emails purporting to show a discussion involving Sattaur, Jagdeo and Nandlall or anything to do with corruption exposes.

One asked Sattuar to provide info as whether the publication and its owners pay the correct amount of taxes or whether they were transgressing in any way involving tax responsibilities.

The transmissions were apparently leaked to the Kaieteur News from inside the GRA.

Sattaur accused Lall of arranging “to hack into the system to obtain the confidential emails” but he has not once denied their authenticity.

The two had been openly feuding in recent months. Tensions reached a head in the past month after the newspaper published a series of stories proving lax monitoring of Chinese state forest company Bai Shan Lin and its alleged breaches of the forest act in relation, charges the company has denied in newspaper advertisements.

The two vehicles were seized a month ago. Lall has promised to publish the remaining emails he has on the issue. Sattaur says he now has to determine who is the mole in his office.

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