Why have directors and shareholders of Sleep-In been asked for seven years of income tax returns?

Dear Editor,

As auditor of Sleep-In International Hotel and Casino Inc, I read nonplussed and with great remorse, the letter dated August 3, 2017 signed by the Gaming Authority Chairman, Mr Roysdale Forde, addressed to that hotel, and also a letter dated August 21, 2017, again signed by the non-executive Gaming Authority Chairman, requesting information that included requests for seven years of individual income tax returns from the directors and shareholders. Lo and behold a request was also made for seven years of tax returns for Sleep-In International Hotel and Casino Inc, when the casino licence application clearly stated and showed the certificate that it was incorporated in 2015.

After four months of considering Mr Bacchus’s application for a casino licence, we have this pathetic response from Chairman Forde and his board members. At least one member of the board was gloating and in a state of euphoria, when the Guyana Chronicle published an article on August 15, 2017, captioned ‘Sleep-in Boss, Associates being probed for money laundering’. The Chronicle followed up in the next two days with another slanderous article on Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino Inc captioned ‘The Dutch Connection’. Under whose directive the Chronicle made these pernicious attacks is still unknown.

We learnt during the week ending September 23, 2017, from a pillar of the mainstream media that the Government of Guyana is seeking casino partners for the Marriott. I do wonder whether these partners will be asked to provide their individual income tax returns, and whether this absurd request for individual income tax returns extends to all investors – local and overseas. Where will this madness end? This continuing fandango, leads one to wonder, what is the purpose of sanity?

Mr Bacchus is a Guyanese who has supported all and sundry, be they from the red party or the green party. It seems that Mr Bacchus’s dream is being made impossible to achieve, frustrated by unauthorized, unmerited or ridiculous requests. Some of these requests are not covered by the Gaming Authority Act.

To paraphrase words from the play Don Quixote: Clifton Bacchus has been scorned and covered with scars in his quest to obtain a casino licence.

Are we not our brother’s keepers?

The casino licence application was made by an incorporated entity on April 5, 2017. Yet Mr Bacchus’s personal income tax returns are requested. It seems to me that the Board of the Gaming Authority has acted beyond the remit of the Gaming Authority Act. My understanding of tax law is that only GRA has a right of access to an individual’s tax return or the same can be provided based on a request sanctioned by the President of Guyana.

I appeal to President Granger to put an end to the tortuous and seemingly malicious process that Mr Bacchus is being made to undeservedly suffer in his quest to be a major local investor, by using the capitalist system to make profit, create employment and become one of our great entrepreneurs.

We do a disservice to our native sons and daughters, as our Guyanese entrepreneurs seek to expand their businesses and are often treated in such a dismissive, humiliating, and ridiculous manner.

How will our little ‘ExxonMobils’, emerge when regulations are made interminable and circular, and where logic and common sense are ignored. Did we request tax returns from the directors and shareholders of ExxonMobil? How ludicrous that would be.

Are we forever mentally enslaved to kowtow to foreign investors, as we trample on the rights and dreams of our local investors? We seem to be intent on having our people be hewers of wood and drawers of water, instead of being filled with pride and joy to see our courageous investors brave the storms and high tides to succeed in industry. Our default position seems to be one filled with envy and callousness. The Government of Guyana under President Ramotar signed off on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a hotel and casino; this was followed by Go-invest, Guyana Revenue Authority, the Ministry of Finance under former President Ramotar and President Granger approving and granting duty and tax-free imports for the hotel and casino.

Knowledge without intelligence, education without common sense, envy and callousness, these are the thoughts that came to mind, when I read the letter from Chairman Roysdale Forde of the Gaming Authority. To what goal is the Gaming Authority straining? What is missing from the submission made on April 5, 2017 to cause the Gaming Authority to spin wheels, as hundreds of millions of investment dollars languish? It seems to me like cruel and unusual punishment is being inflicted on Mr Bacchus.

One can forever split hairs and look for perfection; the search for perfection will be ad infinitum.

When you look at the new buildings at 288-289 Church Street, the location of Sleep-In International Hotel & Casino, you will see an impressive structure, built by Guyanese. On touring the facility, it becomes apparent that we have a world class hotel, with 150 plus rooms, a casino with all the needed equipment, swimming pool, courteous and pleasant Guyanese staff, among other amenities and services. At the core, what your eyes see is the primary requirements needed to comply with the Gaming Authority Act for approval of the casino licences.

Our government officials must include all Guyanese in their mission to serve and provide the good life.

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Hinds

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