29 March 2004

Ghana: Tax Evasion Scandal: Vaswanis Defraud Ghana

- ¢billions involved

AFTER MONTHS of stakeouts The Chronicle has uncovered what could be gigantic fraud through tax evasion by Stallion Industries & Investment Limited (SIIL) owned by the controversial Vaswani Brothers of Nigeria.

A cursory analysis indicated that the tax evasion figure, since the company started operating in Ghana in 2000, could hit billions of cedis.

The Nigerian authorities have described SIIL as economic termites.

Arun Paswani, managing director of Honda Place Ghana Ltd, automobile dealers, is the local representative of the Vaswanis business empire in Ghana.

The Chronicle has gathered that SILL, whose operational scope is the importation of rice and sugar, has not been forthright with its tax obligations especially the Value Added Tax (VAT).

The Company does not issue VAT to quite a number of the company's wholesale customers and insiders told the paper that there were many instances where some customers who could not believe what was happening, had to pressurize the general manager before he reluctantly issued them VAT receipts.

The Chronicle has sighted two different types of delivery notes operated by the company, one fake and one genuine. One note is used to record ghost vehicle numbers at the close of daily operations while the other is used for recording normal delivery transactions, meant for internal checks and balances.

SIIL insiders, who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity, confirmed the tax evasion story and showed the paper a lot of things that security agents would be interested in.

But Mr. Benedictor Serra, General Manager SIIL, last Friday refuted claims that his company was defrauding Ghana through tax evasion and other unhealthy business practices.

"It is never true that we keep two types of delivery notes to perpetrate any fraud against the country.

Everything about our tax is perfect, the tax officials from VAT and customs officials have been here on a number of occasions to check our tax and we were cleared of any wrong doing," he told this reporter.

He said since the incorporation of the company in Ghana all the customers who did business with it were issued with VAT receipts whenever they ordered goods from Stallion.

"The customers could best tell that we always issued them with VAT for all the goods they bought," he stressed, adding he would be surprised should any customer say anything to the contrary.

He could not tell if Stallion Industries & Investment Ltd. in Ghana was a subsidiary of the Stallion Group of Companies in Nigeria, accused of defrauding the Federal Government of Nigeria.

He however admitted that Paswani, the Managing Director of Honda Place, was the country representative of Stallion.

Contrary to Mr. Serra's denial, information pieced together by The Chronicle, and corroborated by a number of customers of the company, showed that the company did not issue VAT receipts to a number of its customers spread across the country.

The paper's sources said they were prepared to expose the Vaswanis since they could no longer put up with their dubious business practices.

The Chronicle is in possession of a number of the copies of the fake delivery notes that were supposed to be burnt after daily operations.

After every business day, ghost vehicle numbers were recorded on the fake delivery notes but checks at the Vehicle and Licensing Department (VELD) revealed them to be saloon cars and motorcycles.

In the 1970s, the father of the Vaswanis was deported from Ghana for questionable business practices by the National Redemption Council (NRC) government and his assets frozen.

The Ministry of the Interior, acting upon a security report in August last year, issued a prohibition order debarring the Vaswani brothers from entering Ghana where they have business interests.

Copyright © 2004 Ghanaian Chronicle. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.