Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 6th 2017 Contents "Every magisterial matter is
a preliminary inquiry and you
have 29,000 of them in arrears.
You've got 100,000 cases oc-
cupying judicial time for traffic
offences. You have 2,100 cases
in backlog over 15 years in the
High Court ," he said.
The AG warned that Govern-
ment's approach to stamping
out corruption is targeted, add-
ing that this had repercussions.
"It is not by mistake that peo-
ple attack certain members of
Government. I have been ac-
cused of being a tactical Attor-
ney General by the Opposition,"
He pledged to deal with the
"eat ah food" syndrome.
Noting that most in this coun-
try gave a "collective steups"
on law enforcement, Al-Rawi
added: "The real problem in our
country is the distance between
an allegation of corruption or
fraud or criminality and the
conviction is just impossibly
large. Our largest case of alleged
corruption in our jurisdiction is
the Piarco Airport Inquiry.
The AG said that case is in its
seventeenth year in the magis-
trate's court following which it
will proceed to the High Court
from which there is the possi-
bility of it going to the Court of
Appeal and Privy Counsel.
On the Proceeds of Crime Act,
the AG said the Police Service
can demonstrate only $250,000
in cash forfeitures because the
Act requires there be a crime
with a conviction in court before
going after behind the proceeds
of the crime.
"So if your pre-trial stage is
17 years and yet to go to Court of
Appeal . . . when you eventual-
ly get to a conviction, you're 30
years past and then you go for
the conviction and forfeiture of
assets," he said.
Al-Rawi said the root cause
of criminality in T&T is fraud.
Using the car industry as an ex-
ample, he said roughly 10,000
cars are licensed per month.
"The allegation is the Licens-
ing Authority would ask for
$500 to accelerate licensing for
your car. That is a small request
but take that and multiply it by
$10,000 and multiply it by 12
and somebody in the Licensing
Department has a $60 million
enterprise based on fraud," je
The AG said over the past 26
years there have been several
discussions about regularising
the credit union system with
"nothing to show."
"So your credit union reg-
ulations are coming," he said,
adding that owners of compa-
nies must also disclose the "true
owners" of shares.
Dealing with tax evasion
Al-Rawi said the secrecy pro-
vision in the Income Tax Act
has to be opened up to allow
for certain prescribed entities
to access information for law
enforcement purposes and to
ensure "somebody is guarding
He said the proposal requires
a special majority and there is a
Miscellaneous Bill before Par-
liament tfor prosecution of tax
evasion matters in a reciprocal
"We will extradite persons
who are deemed to be wanted
in a foreign jurisdiction for tax
evasion. Currently the law as it
stands is that the Government
could say no if an extradition
request is made for tax evasion
purposes," he said, adding that
this discretion is currently being
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 guardian.co.tt
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for JUNE 05TH, 2017
Property tax appeals to be heard today
Attorneys representing Finance
Minister Colm Imbert and former
agriculture minister Devant Maharaj
are expected to square off at the Hall of
Justice this morning at hearing of an
appeal against two injunctions stop-
ping collection and processing of valu-
ation return forms for the property tax.
The hearing comes less than a week after
High Court Judge Frank Seepersad granted a
second injunction to Maharaj, who claimed
the State was in breach of the original order
when it invited property owners to volun-
tarily submit their forms to the Commis-
sioner of Valuations.
Maharaj sued the Ministry of Finance
after it issued a press release calling on
property owners to complete and submit
valuations forms along with relevant docu-
ments by May 22. Even as Imbert extended
the deadline due to long lines of property
owners at Valuation Division offices, Ma-
haraj applied for the injunction on May 19.
In granting the first injunction Seeper-
sad had said: "The balance of convenience
and the interest of justice is not weighted
in favour of the respondents (AG and Com-
missioner) and a greater risk of prejudice
lies in the continuation of a process which
on the face of the existing law, may have
been undertaken without measured con-
sideration and without proper regard to the
provisions of the Act."
Imbert and Attorney General Faris Al-Ra-
wi immediately signalled Government's in-
tention to appeal the injunction. However,
there was some controversy as Al-Rawi said
the appeal would come up for hearing two
days later even before it was filed in the
At the first hearing of the appeal on May
22, Appellate Judges Peter Jamadar, Greg-
ory Smith and Judith Jones adjourned the
case as they said they had not had time to
read the documents and the appeal was
Following the adjournment, Imbert is-
sued a second release in which he claimed he
had legal advice on the issue and voluntary
submission of forms would not be in breach
of Seepersad's injunction. Imbert's claims
were raised by Maharaj's lawyer Anand
Ramlogan, SC, when the original injunc-
tion came up for review last Wednesday.
Ramlogan then applied and obtained the
secondary injunction blocking the Com-
missioner of Valuations from receiving and
processing the forms. State attorneys have
since appealed the second injunction and
both appeals are expected to be heard si-
multaneously this morning.
Maharaj's substantive case against the
State challenging the legality of Govern-
ment's enforcement of property tax is set
to go on trial in September.
The property tax valuation exercise is not
merely to ensure those taxes are paid but is also
a mechanism for rooting out fraud. Attorney
General Faris Al-Rawi said as much yesterday
in his address at the opening of Global Forensic
Institute's (GFI) Caribbean Fraud Conference
2017: FATCA, Trafficking and Risk at the Ra-
disson Hotel in Port-of-Spain.
"I want to point out something the country has
missed. How do you establish ownership of prop-
erties in this country? Doesn't it require the State
identifying all ownership in the country?" he asked.
"How do you identify all ownership of land? By
a mechanism of compulsory registration for land
which is why in the Parliament there are four bits of
legislation which require the State to go to every inch
of T&T, identify the owner and compulsory register.
"I don't want to offend any injunctions in court but
I want you to think a little bit deeper about how you
double check the ownership of land. It requires the
State to go out and bring its records to date. If we are
serious about dealing with corruption the first thing
is to step back and look at the system."
Al-Rawi said.Government is also working on a
"completely renovated system" for land registra-
tion which is expected to go before Parliament in
"Right now people abuse, hiding proceeds of crime
under beneficial ownership arrangements or deeds of
trust. We are proposing that all trusts must be done by
deed and all documents must be registered including
agreement for sale. If you can't register you tell the
registry and that becomes public record," hei said.
The AG said although there are several robust laws
to tackle fraud, the gap between an allegation and
conviction is still "impossibly too large," making it
difficult to bring perpetrators to justice. He said this
is taking place against a backdrop of 53 police prose-
cutors, of which only eight are lawyers, handling 95
per cent of magisterial matters.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi speaks with Cathrine Pinder, of the Business & Tax Group LLC USA, during the Global Forensic Institute
(GFI) hosting of the Caribbean Fraud Conference 2017: FATCA, Trafficking and Risks at Radisson Hotel, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
AG: Govt cracking down on land fraud
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