Ex-Venezuelan diplomat’s Land Rover seized pending $2.4M tax payment, private registration

A vehicle belonging to former First Secretary of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Luz Leon Guillen was recently seized pending the payment of $2.4 million in pro-rated taxes and its registration as a private vehicle, Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) last evening confirmed.

She is yet to respond to an offer made to have the vehicle exported to avoid payment of the outstanding taxes, the agency also said.

A week ago, the woman told online news outfit Newsroom that she felt that her rights were being trampled upon. She was adamant that she didn’t owe taxes since the 2003 Land Rover, which she owns, was acquired via a duty-free concession. Though she ceased working at the embassy here since November, 2017, she remains in Guyana and now works as a translator for Cubans who have appointments at the United States Embassy in Georgetown.

GRA yesterday responded to contents of the Newsroom article.

According to GRA, on October 25th, 2018, it  received a correspondence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with an attached letter from the Venezuelan Embassy, stating Guillen’s tour ended in November 2017, and requesting that the diplomatic licence plate DPL-6-04 registered to the Venezuelan Embassy be withdrawn and put out of circulation.

Acting thereon, the GRA said its Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) intercepted the motor vehicle bearing the said diplomatic plate and advised her that in accordance with the provisions of Article 34 and Article 39 of the Privileges and Immunities (Diplomatic Consular and International Organisations) Act, respectively, that prorated taxes of $2.4 million must be paid and the vehicle privately registered or, until then, the vehicle cannot be driven under the said withdrawn diplomatic plate.

“At no time was the former First secretary treated with disrespect,” the release said while explaining that when the matter was brought to the attention of the Commissioner-General, “discretion was exercised” to allow for the motor vehicle to be utilized by her provided that she takes the necessary steps to have it registered with an ordinary registration number and any outstanding pro-rated Excise tax paid on or before December 1st, 2018, (the date of her purported return ticket)  should the motor vehicle be sold or remain in the jurisdiction after that date.

“In the alternative, no tax will be payable should the vehicle be exported. The Guyana Revenue Authority has advised her of the said offer which to date she has failed to take up,” it said.

Guillen, who is an Attorney-at-law, Specialist in Negotiation and Resolution of Conflicts, Master in International Studies and Diplomatic Relations,  told Newsroom that she remained in Guyana pending the receipt of a ticket from her country to travel back home. According to her, she received the ticket on October 17th and is due to leave Guyana on December 1st, 2018.

She insisted that she remains in the employ of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Venezuela and even though the vehicle belongs to her, she is authorised to use the diplomatic plates and remains in Guyana under diplomatic status, granted by Article 39.2 of the Vienna Convention.

Following the seizure of the vehicle, she said she sought the intervention of Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and wrote a letter to the Director of the Protocol Department explaining what happened but got no assistance.

She said, too, that she visited the Foreign Ministry in Georgetown on June 25th, 2018, to inquire about the process of returning her diplomatic plate so she can use the regular plates and initiate the sale of her vehicle but was told that she needed to submit her return date to Venezuela first.

She wants the vehicle to be returned to her and said that she is contemplating taking legal action, according to the Newsroom article.