Probe still to shed light on involvement of AG, other gov’t officials in remigrant duty-free scam

Despite all assurances that no stone will be left unturned in the investigation of suspected abuses of duty-free concessions given under the remigrant scheme, months have elapsed and no information has been released as to the possible involvement of Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall and other members of the government in any of the cases.

Nandlall was linked to the investigation after it was revealed that his uncle, Kamal Mangal, despite rarely being in Guyana used the AG’s Prashad Nagar address when filling out the concession registration for a luxury Sports Utility Vehicle.

Nandlall, when contacted, had said that when the investigation by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) began, officers had visited his home to check on his vehicles. He said GRA officers had visited over a year ago and he made it clear that if they were to find any wrongdoing in the transaction, they would have to take the appropriate action. It would appear that the GRA officials never made contact with the AG after the first visit.

Anil Nandlall
Anil Nandlall

Stabroek News was made privy to documentation in which Mangal was listed as the primary owner of the vehicle, which bore number plate PPP 9090, and also listed Lot 55 Chandra Nagar Street, Prashad Nagar as his primary address. That address is the property of Nandlall.

When Nandlall was asked about this, he had told Stabroek News that Mangal, at the time of the registration, would have stayed at his place. He said Mangal lived in Guyana but also spent time abroad. He made it clear that he had never seen the vehicle.

The fact that Nandlall’s address was listed on the registration when Mangal was not living there raised questions but it is unclear whether this was ever vigorously pursued by the GRA or the Office of the Auditor General, which was said to be spearheading the investigations. One would have expected that when a remigrant applies for the concession they would have established permanent residence in Guyana.

Nandlall had told Stabroek News that Mangal had properties on Delhi Street, Prashad Nagar, where the vehicle was permanently parked while he was out of the country. He said Mangal owned two sets of apartments along the street and they were where he resided while in Guyana.

Nandlall created the impression that he was unaware that his address was listed on the registration. He said that while he was unsure why this was done, he said Mangal did stay with him in 2012 when the transaction occurred.

It is unclear whether the authorities would verify the addresses given by the remigrants, which would be expected given the suspected abused of the scheme.

The Attorney General has two luxury SUVs and a car registered in his name in addition to the vehicles provided by the state. He said it was unfortunate that his name was being dragged into the Auditor-General’s investigation for no particular reason. Nandlall noted that one of the vehicles was brought in duty-free, but he paid taxes on the others.

In October, 2014, Mangal told the Kaieteur News that was not aware that he had to be living in Guyana to qualify as a remigrant. In a report published by the newspaper, he denied that he did anything wrong when he used the Attorney General’s home address to apply for remigrant status, which allowed him to import the high-end Mercedes Benz and other personal items as a remigrant.

He went on to explain that in August, 2012, with intentions to come back to Guyana, he applied to become a remigrant. The application was approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and he was granted permission by the GRA to have the necessary waivers on taxes.

On the application, Mangal said he listed his address as the minister’s residence as that was where he would stay when in Guyana. Mangal said his Tax Identification Number (TIN) was registered at the time of application to Nandlall’s address.

Asked whether his family was also part of the application for remigrant status, Mangal said his family still resided in Florida.

The businessman, making it clear that he had workers managing his apartment business in Prashad Nagar, said the application had nothing to do with his wife but rather he was the remigrant.

The man also explained that he spent a lot of time out of Guyana as he had businesses in the United States to run.

The report stated that a remigrant is required to keep the vehicles for three years, or face penalties of having to pay the taxes. The applicant, once approved, is required to visit the offices of GRA every six months with the vehicle, its registration and as well as his/her passport.

GRA is supposed to examine the remigrant’s passport to determine how many times he/she would have travelled abroad and whether they spent more time out of Guyana than in. If it is found that the remigrant spent more time overseas than in Guyana, then GRA is required to write the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recommending that the remigrant status be revoked, resulting in the person having to pay the required taxes.

A subsequent Kaieteur News report suggested that Mangal may have breached the conditions under which he was allowed to import the vehicle. It was stated that when the vehicle arrived in Guyana in October, 2012, Mangal was not in the country to clear it. He was also not in Guyana to register his vehicle on November 2, 2012.

It was reported that between November 2012 and October 2014—a two-year span—Mangal spent about 20 months out of the country and only four in Guyana during his visits, spending on average two weeks at a time.

Nandlall then moved to the court on behalf of Mangal and was able to successfully secure an interim injunction effectively gagging the newspaper from reporting on anything further as it relates to the vehicle. Mangal also sued the newspaper for in excess of $20M in damages.

Subsequent to the naming of Nandlall in the media and the stories that followed, a controversial 19-minute recording surfaced in which the AG was heard warning Kaieteur News reporter Leonard Gildarie that the newspaper could be targeted over its reports on a number of issues.

On October 27, last year, Kaieteur News publisher Glenn Lall, in the company of his lawyer, made an official complaint to the police that Nandlall had made threats against the entity and its staff. He also handed over a copy of the recording.

In the days after the story broke in the press, the police came out lambasting Lall and his reporter Leonard Gildarie for stalling their investigation by not cooperating. The duo subsequently complied with the police’s wishes by clarifying aspects of the report and, in the case of Gildarie, submitting a statement.

After a police investigation, the matter was sent to the DPP who later advised that no charges be laid against Nandlall as the police file sent to her contained no evidence of threats.

Though it was said that other government officials were part of the investigation, names were never released. It was stated by sources that it was the flood of luxury vehicles on the roads that prompted the decision to probe the period 2010 to 2014 to see whether there was an abuse of duty-free concessions to remigrants. This newspaper had requested information on the number of persons being investigated. However, Auditor-General Deodat Sharma indicated that he could not disclose information since the investigation is an active one.

Last November, Sharma revealed that roughly 15 to 20 persons have been investigated further after an initial inquiry. He did not give any details as to who these persons might be.

Further, he said his office has already submitted two interim reports to the board of the GRA. The contents of these reports are unclear.

The probe seemingly zeroed in on Lall and his wife, Bhena, along with their remigrant friends Narootandeo Brijnanan and his wife Gharbassi. This created the impression that they were being targeted but this was strongly denied. It was said that they were part of a wider investigation.

However the public is still to see the evidence of this.

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