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Jun 26, 2019

B.T.L. Owes Millions of Dollars in GST

We take a break from crime and go to Belmopan where the Senate today dealt with an amendment to the Tax Laws which was passed and place criminal liability against anyone in the chain of management in any company not paying taxes.  In the debate, senators urged the tightening up of collection across the board and not on selective businesses.   Now the payment of GST is mandatory, but in the following story, we look at the treatment meted at small businesses persons while many businesses including huge entities are left untouched. 

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

In 2011, businesswoman Cathy Barothy was detained and publicly humiliated because she owed the GST Department forty-one thousand dollars. She had already made arrangements to pay in installments, but the Department had her picked up. At the time, Barothy was one of thirteen business-owners who were rousted by the GST which wanted its pound of flesh.

 

Catherine Barothy

Catherine Barothy, Owner, Neon Plastics Ltd. [File: July 19th, 2011]

“Complying with the law I went with the tax officers in their blue-plated government tax vehicle.  Instead of being driven to the Magistrates Court however, I was instead taken to the Queen Street Police Station.  I was taken inside and again ordered to pay up forty-one thousand [dollars].  I told the officer to please understand [that] I truly do not have the same.  I looked around for the tax officers and they were gone.  At that point I recognized [that] I had been handed over to the police instead of being taken to the Magistrates Court.   I had my cell phone under my blouse but was afraid it would be taken away.  I quietly sent off a text stating where I was.  Approximately five minutes later I was being escorted through a dingy side corridor and herded into a prison bus filled with all male prisoners and security guards.  Many prisoners were in chains.  There were no other women or businesspersons anywhere. We ended the tour with an intense horn blowing on Regent Street between Brodies and the old Central Bank Building.  I was escorted into the courthouse and again told to go into a cell.  A senior officer intervened and told me to stand against the wall.  After five minutes of waiting I was finally taken in front of a magistrate.  The tax officers were again present.  The magistrate, an intelligent, fair but stern woman reviewed the details and ordered the prison bus to leave.  She firmly stated that the balances owed to the Government of Belize need to be paid and proceeded to structure the same as per the amount so definitively stated on the local news.”

 

 

David Gegg

Then there is the case of David Gegg’s Cruise Solutions and Discovery Expeditions. In 2018 the Caribbean Court of Justice, ordered the Government to repay Gegg half a million dollars in GST as a result of a loophole in the law which exempted tour operators from paying General Sales Tax. Other tour operators took G.O.B. to Court in the wake of that landmark ruling, also demanding back monies they had paid in to the GST. But Government passed a very controversial retroactive law which denied the tour companies any chance of collecting back their monies.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: November 23rd, 2018]

“We had our lawyers research this thing properly and saw where, this is not the first time it has happen, I am not saying in Belize, elsewhere and the courts have held that in those circumstances that the government is perfectly entitled to pass a law retrospectively curing the mischief and thus whipping out the chance of these people getting refunds. As the court says man, it can’t say it is a new tax being imposed. You all paid it and except for one person, paid it happily. Those tax dollars were used to help the industry, to build road, to deliver the services of government. You cannot leave the government and the state in a position where it will be so horribly prejudice and have its finances so completely destabilized. That is what the bill is about. How much? I didn’t even try find out the exact amount because, imagine I would have catch a heart attack.”

 

While that amount was less than ten million dollars, News Five has obtained documents which show that Belize Telemedia Limited, a company majority owned by Government, owes the GST department more than twenty-nine million dollars. Yes, you heard right, twenty-nine million dollars and B.T.L. continues to rack up unpaid GST debts since 2012. To break it down in a nutshell: in 2012, according to the assessment, B.T.L. did not pay three point one million dollars on reported sales. In 2013, no payment of three point five million on reported sales. In 2014, no payment of three point five million on reported sales. In 2015, no payment of four point five million on reported sales. In 2016 – no payment of three point five million on reported sales and in 2017, no payment of six point one million on reported sales.

 

That’s a total of twenty-four point four million dollars owing to GST, give or take a few tens of thousands. And adding in GST unpaid from other areas, the assessment is for a grand total of twenty-nine million three hundred and seventeen thousand plus dollars.   And this assessment does not include late fees, penalties, interests – which are sure to add up to quite a few millions more.

 

Now, there are reports that B.T.L. is trying to source approximately one hundred and fifty million dollars to invest in a 5G network. This on the heels of close to one hundred million dollars invested in the 4G network, and reportedly almost that much on the fibre to homes project. Observers say that the non payment by B.T.L. is a clear indication that the company is in dire financial straits and another investment of this size is foolhardy at best. At worst, it not only puts B.T.L. at risk, but importantly those entities that will come up with the money. Duane Moody for News Five.

 

News Five has been trying to get confirmation that B.T.L. Chair Net Vasquez has written to the Financial Secretary asking for a write-off. We were also unable to reach the Acting Commissioner of GST, Evan Brown as well as B.T.L. C.E.O. Rochus Schreiber for their comment, but will keep trying.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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No Responses for “B.T.L. Owes Millions of Dollars in GST”

  1. Truth says:

    Seriously and asking for a write off.. you can bleed your people to pay GST and yet you ask for a write off.. GOB You guys need to be fired..completely.. so much for hiding in a democratic country and protecting , serving your people.

    WRITE OFF… MORE LIKE GO TO JAIL… FRIGGIN PEOPLE.. DISGUSTING DISGUSTING GOVERNMENT.

  2. meandi says:

    I wonder who was the CEO for BTL during those years. Now he sits at the board for Social Security. Shouldn’t the then CEO be held accountable?

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