25 October 2017

Liberia: Court to Shut Down Bility's Business in 30 Days for Tax Debt

The ongoing US$190,800 tax fraud case levied against businessman Musa Hassan Bility by the Government of Liberia, on Monday took a dramatic turn with the Tax Court issuing a 30-day ultimatum to close down his Gulf Trading/Srimex Enterprise if he failed to pay the current tax debt, now 63 months in arrears.

Judge Mozart Chesson's mandate was triggered by Bility's lawyer, Joe S. Barkon, who challenged the court's decision to impose an additional interest on the balance sum of US$94,710, now owed out of the 2012 judgment of US$190,800 against Gulf Trading/Srimex Enterprise.

Section 44.39 of the Civil Procedure Law provides that 6 percent be imposed on any judgment of debt or any judgment against any tax evader. In his judgment, Chesson ordered Bility to pay the current tax debt, now 63 months in arrears, within 30 days or face immediate closure.

"The amount of US$190,800 compounded monthly for 63 months at the rate of 14 percent has yielded US$205,420.58 in additional interest," the Tax Court judge indicated.

He noted, "The sum of the additional interest and the judgment of US$190,800 has now increased Bility's debt to US$396,220.68," adding, "We deducted from that amount the sum of US$96,090 paid during the interim and the total present tax debt is US$300,130.68."

According to Chesson, when it is necessary to determine an interest rate, the rate shall be the market rate as published by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

"Research reveals that the market rate established by the CBL has fluctuated since July 2012, but the bank has established an average market interest rate of 14 percent per year throughout the intervening period of July 2012 up to October 16, 2017, a period of 63 months," the Tax Court judge stated.

He said the law provides that if a tax evader does not meet up with his or her responsibility by the due date, the taxpayer is obligated to pay an interest that is compounded monthly at the rate that is determined under Section 11 on the unpaid amount for the period from the date of the judgment to the time the taxpayer settles his or her obligation.

Musa Bility is the President and CEO of Gulf Trading/Srimex Enterprises. He is also the President of the Liberia Football Association (LFA), as well as the owner of Renaissance Communications Incorporated (RCI), which operates the Truth FM Radio, Real TV, and Renaissance Newspaper.

The case started on May 3, 2010 when the government filed a complaint against Gulf Trading and Srimex Enterprises claiming that the company failed to pay overdue and outstanding duties in the amount of US$190,800, including the 6 percent interest.

Bility admitted to the allegation and made a stipulation on how he would pay the money in 2012.

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