15 June 2017

Liberia: LRA Refutes Quarterly Report's Claim

Amid reports of budget shortfall last year, a court document says the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) failed to follow up on the judgment against several tax evaders, including Gulf Trading and SRIMEX Enterprise.

However, the LRA explained that it has not failed to follow up any case as reported in the First Quarterly 2017 Report, citing delay tactics on the part of Gulf Trading/Srimex Enterprise, owned by Musa Hassan Bility, current president of the Liberia Football Association (LFA).

The First Quarterly 2017 Report, of the Tax Court in Monrovia to the office of the Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, covering the period from January 1 to March 31, 2017, quoted Judge Mozart Chesson as saying that the LRA had failed to do follow-ups on Gulf Trading/Srimex Enterprise to recover US$143,100 in taxes.

"On September 13, 2013, judgment of US$190,800 was entered against the taxpayer, Gulf Trading, and Srimex Enterprise, which entered stipulation with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to pay all the judgment in installment," the report said.

"Up to October 30, 2014, the taxpayer had made three partial payments, leaving a balance of US$143,100 on the judgment of which LRA has refused to make effort to collect," the Chesson report added.

The LRA, in response, said on May 3, 2011, the Government of Liberia filed an action of failure to pay overdue and outstanding duties against Gulf Trading/SRIMEX Enterprises in the amount US$488,910.52. During the trial, it was discovered that Gulf Trading/Srimex Enterprises had paid US$120,000, and the actual amount owed is US$368,910, including interest.

On June 12, 2012, the Counsel for Gulf Trading/Srimex Enterprises on behalf of its client admitted to the tax liability of US$180,000 and said the company was prepared to pay the amount over a period of twelve months.

On July 4, the GoL filed a motion for summary judgment against Gulf Trading/SRIMEX and same was granted on July 12, 2012. The Tax Court judge entered judgment for US$190,800 to include court cost. Of this amount, the GoL was entitled to US$180,000, including penalties and interest.

The LRA said on August 6, 2012, the Tax Court Judge issued a payment order for the company to pay US$47,700 which constitutes 25% of the total US$190,800, including interest on money judgment and clerk fees.

The court requested that the balance is paid within a year of the judgment. Despite several court communications, Gulf Trading/SRIMEX Enterprises failed to pay as stipulated.

On June 18, 2013, Gulf Trading/SRIMEX Enterprises thru its lawyer, Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould (recently deceased) filed with the Tax Court a stipulation payment of eighteen (18) months from July 2013 -December 2014. The company paid US$25,000 against the US$180,000.

In addition, the LRA said Gulf Trading/Srimex defaulted payment.

On August 13, 2014, the GOL filed Bill of Information to the Tax Court on Gulf Trading/Srimex Enterprises' persistent default and disrespect of the court's order, but the bill was not heard due to the formation and transition of the LRA.

On April 20, 2017, the LRA prayed the Court for assignment to hear arguments on the Bill of Information before the Court. The said hearing was scheduled for April 26, 2017. On the said date Counsels for Gulf Trading/SRIMEX appeared before trial and requested the court for a continuance due to the death of Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, a member of their legal team. Again, in early May 2017, GoL prayed the Tax Court for another assignment for arguments in the Bill of Information before the Tax Court.

The case was assigned and the lawyers of Gulf Trading/SRIMEX appeared and informed the court that the late Cllr. Gould's office was locked and they have not gotten access to it and therefore prayed for the continuance. On May 25, 2017, the GOL prayed the Tax Court for another assignment to argue the Bill of Information. The said hearing was assigned for May 31, 2017. Gulf Trading/ SRIMEX lawyers appeared and requested the Tax Court for the continuance for reason that the counsels wanted to review the case. At this stage, the application made by the Counsels for Gulf Trading /SRIMEX was granted, however, the Tax Court judge Mozart Chesson fined the KEMP & Associates, US$200 for contempt of court.

On June 5, 2017, Atty. Morris Davies, counsel of Gulf Trading/SRIMEX visited the offices of the LRA to negotiate payment of GoL entitlement as per the ruling of the Tax Court. Atty. Davies informed Atty. Jimmy Saah Bombo of the LRA that Gulf Trading/SRIMEX had some payment against the amount the court awarded to GoL. He assured Atty. Bombo that they will attach receipts of payments made by Gulf Trading/SRIMEX and that Gulf Trading/SRIMEX is now indebted in the amount of US$85,000. During the discussion, Atty. Davies appealed that they are requesting GoL to allow Gulf Trading/SRIMEX to pay the balance amount in three installments as of the end of June, July, and August of 2017.

Atty. Bombo informed Atty. Davies that GoL awaits Gulf Trading/SRIMEX to return to the Bill of Information. Atty. Bombo said further that the return will serve as a basis for LRA management to make a decision as to Gulf Trading/SRIMEX's request. On June 7, 2017, Gulf Trading/SRIMEX filed with the court and the LRA its returns claiming that Gulf Trading/SRIMEX is indebted to GoL in an amount of US$85,00O. Meanwhile, the LRA said the case is assigned for Monday, June 19.

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