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PUP accuses BTL chairman of asking Financial Secretary to waive $29 million debt

For the past week, the issue of whether or not BTL owes about $30 million in General Sales Tax has been on the discussion table. The People’s United Party decided that their input should be in the form of a press conference, at which Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno, condemned the Barrow administration for its greedy and corrupt practices. Briceno then gave the floor to Kareem Musa, who said confidently that there was indeed an audit performed on BTL and that the results prove the debt does exist.

Kareem Musa – Shadow Minister, Communications and Public Utilities: “Despite all of our money being poured into BTL, we are now seeing evidence based on an audit report that was conducted by the GST Department that BTL has been grossly under-reporting its financials and has not been paying taxes. They can’t pay their fair share of taxes but the rest have to and this is the bottom line ladies and gentlemen. Why are there two sets of rules: one for UDP and one for the rest of Belize. Pouring out of the Tax Department are piles of documents that are still being analyzed. The UDP Government says that it is all lies however these documents show that there are some two hundred and forty million dollars of under-reporting by BTL between 2012 and 2017. The Financial Secretary Mr. Joseph Waight on the other hand also weighed in on these controversial allegations that are in circulation and what he has confirmed was that the GST Department was, in fact, doing an audit of BTL. That audit has now concluded ladies and gentlemen and the big question on everyone’s mind is this, if the audit confirms that there was underreporting, if it shows that BTL has not been paying the proper GST since 2012 then why has the GST Department been giving special treatment and protection to BTL by not using an assessment.”

Musa added that BTL potentially owes millions in Business taxes as well.

Kareem Musa – Shadow Minister, Communications and Public Utilities: “We begin to wonder what else is being covered up? What else is wrong with BTL? We can no longer trust the financials of that company anymore. We have had a certified accountant look at the financials for 2017-2018 and this is what it revealed. In the BTL’s annual report it states that 61% of its revenues came from mobile and fixed lines, 10% from roaming and international settlements, 21% being internet/ data and 8% constituting other revenues. If mobile and fixed lines services constitute real-time voice services provided by BTL which we don’t see why it wouldn’t, then according to BTL’s own figures $97 million of its total revenues came from voice and is therefore subject to business tax at 19%. The rest of the revenues would be conservatively subject to a tax at not less than 1.75%. This ladies and gentlemen would yield a total business tax liability for BTL at roughly $19 million for the fiscal period 2017 and 2018. Yet BTL reported business tax liability for that year at only $12.2 million. What is the reason for the difference of this $6.8 million for the fiscal year 2017-2018?.”

The cherry on top of the BTL cake was when Musa revealed that the Leader of the Opposition has written a letter to the Prime Minister. In that letter not only demands answers from the Prime Minister, who doubles as the Minister of Finance, but includes a serious allegation. He claimed to have been informed that BTL’s chairman, Nestor Vasquez, had written to the Financial Secretary and asked to waive the 29 million dollar debt.

Kareem Musa – Shadow Minister, Communications and Public Utilities: “I am happy to report that the Party Leader has written a letter to demand that the man that has been hiding behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz, the Prime Minister himself, to demand full disclosure of the financial affairs of the people’s company BTL. Tell us, Mr. Prime Minister, why has BTL not been paying its taxes and tell us Mr. Prime Minister did the Chairman of BTL write to the Government requesting a waiver or a write off of these taxes. We demand answers and we deserve answers.”

It should be noted that the GST Department has issued a press release in which they informed the public that the audit is actually still ongoing and they are still awaiting the completion of the audit to determine BTL’s tax position. The release also says, quote, “The Department’s position is that BTL is compliant in fulfilling their obligations to file and pay monthly as is required by law.” End quote.///////