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Jul 3, 2019

Opposition Party Comes Down Hard on BTL for Reported Multimillion Dollars GST Debt

The People’s United Party today mounted pressure on Belize Telemedia Limited, the Department of General Sales Tax and the Prime Minister as it relates to a throve of damning documents leaked to the media a week ago on Wednesday. The documents purport to show that Belize Telemedia Limited, the telecom giant that the Barrow Administration acquired to the tune of more than five hundred million dollars, owes millions upon millions of dollars in G.S.T. and business tax. Over the course of six years, between 2012 and 2017, B.T.L. reportedly racked up a twenty-nine million dollars G.S.T. debt. Coupled with penalties, the government-owned corporation is said to owe more than fifty million dollars in taxes. Chairman of the B.T.L. Board Nestor Vasquez has denied such claims saying that the company is up to date with its taxes and it does not owe a single penny to the Government. In a release, B.T.L. said that it continues to pay the appropriate G.S.T. on a monthly basis and that the company has not been assessed with respect to G.S.T. The company’s release did not deny the authenticity of the leaked documents. An even as the ink had to dry on the release, the company C.E.O. Rochus Schreiber resigned from the high paying job.  Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, however, confirmed that the G.S.T. department was carrying out an audit on B.T.L.’s financials. Today, Leader of the Opposition John Briceño and the P.U.P.’s shadow minister responsible for communications and public utilities Kareem Musa, came out swinging at the government and B.T.L., saying that the company’s revenues have been grossly underreported.


John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

John Briceño

“BTL cannot deny the existence of this audit because there is a full report, hundreds of line items that were looked into. So there is that. Secondly, you need to ask who is telling the truth. Mr. Vasquez is saying that they owe nothing but yet both the Financial Secretary and Mr. Evan Brown the acting Commissioner for GST, have been saying there has been an ongoing audit and in effect there is an audit because obviously numbers are not corresponding. Now how much is it? Is it twenty nine million? Is it thirty-five million? Is it twenty million? We don’t know. The point is that there is a clear indication that BTL is not paying it proper GST taxes to the Government. What is worse is that GST, You collect it from the people. It is not even your money. You as a business person you just collect it on behalf of the government. So in effect, from what we are seeing, BTL is trying to prop up its profits by holding on to that money and to show a healthier profit that what they really have. In effect, a businessman described it best that BTL is a house of cards.”


Kareem Musa, PUP Shadow Responsible for Communications & Public Utilities

Kareem Musa

“We are now seeing evidence based on an audit report that was conducted by a GST department that BTL has been grossly underreporting its financials and has not been paying taxes. 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? Last week’s bomb came with exploding evidence, pouring out of the tax departments are piles of documents that are still being analyzed. The UDP government says that it is all lies however these documents show that there is some two hundred and forty million dollars of underreporting by BTL between 2012 an 2017. If that is a lie then please tell us the truth.  That audit has not concluded ladies and gentlemen and the big question on everyone’s mind is this: if the audit confirms that there was underreporting, if it dhows that BTL has not been paying the proper GST since 2012 then why is the GST department giving special treatment and protection to BTL by not issuing an assessment. The underreporting as disclosed by this audit has serious ramifications because if this is true as we have all reason to believe that it is, not only does BTL owe GST but it also potentially owe business tax to the tune of six point eight million dollars for 2017 and 2018. This is serious.”


John Briceño  

“Whenever you do a sale you pay GST. There are no exceptions from sales and for the telecom companies what they have done because the telecom is taxed at nineteen percent GST. What they do is set up a marketing company so that that they can sell their talk time through the where they only pay one point seven five. That is where BTL is playing with the numbers, trying to see how they can avoid paying some of the taxes that they have to pay. Basically, that is what we have been informed from the people we have spoken in the GST department that is that bone contention that 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.”

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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