Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 7th 2017 Contents tobagotoday.co.tt June 7 - 2017
AG: Govt cracking down on land fraud
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 Radisson Hotel
"I want to point out something the coun-
try has missed. How do you establish own-
ership of properties 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 reg-
istration for land which is why in the Par-
liament there are four bits of legislation
which require the State to go to every inch
of T&T, identify the owner and compul-
"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
Al-Rawi said.Government is also working
on a "completely renovated system" for
land registration which is expected to go
before Parliament in September.
"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," he said.
The AG said although there are several
robust laws to tackle fraud, the gap between
an allegation and conviction is still "impos-
sibly too large," making it difficult to bring
perpetrators to justice. He said this is tak-
ing place against a backdrop of 53 police
prosecutors, of which only eight are lawyers,
handling 95 per cent of magisterial matters.
"Every magisterial matter is a preliminary
inquiry and you have 29,000 of them in
arrears. You've got 100,000 cases occupy-
ing 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 Government's
approach to stamping out corruption is
targeted, adding that this had repercussions.
"It is not by mistake that people attack
certain members of Government. I have
been accused of being a tactical Attorney
General by the Opposition," he said.
He pledged to deal with the "eat ah food"
Noting that most in this country gave a
"collective steups" on law enforcement,
Al-Rawi added: "The real problem in our
country is the distance between an allega-
tion 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 Inqui-
r y.The AG said that case is in its seventeenth
year in the magistrate's court following
which it will proceed to the High Court
from which there is the possibility of it
going to the Court of Appeal and Privy
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
yettogotoCourtofAppeal. . .whenyou
eventually get to a conviction, you're 30
years past and then you go for the convic-
tion and forfeiture of assets," he said.
Al-Rawi said the root cause of criminal-
ity in T&T is fraud. Using the car industry
as an example, he said roughly 10,000 cars
are licensed per month.
"The allegation is the Licensing Author-
ity would ask for $500 to accelerate licens-
ing 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 said.
The AG said over the past 26 years there
have been several discussions about regu-
larising the credit union system with "noth-
ing to show."
"So your credit union regulations are
coming," he said, adding that owners of
companies must also disclose the "true
owners" of shares.
Dealing with tax evasion
Al-Rawi said the secrecy provision 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 the
He said the proposal requires a special
majority and there is a Miscellaneous Bill
before Parliament tfor prosecution of tax
evasion matters in a reciprocal arrangement.
"We will extradite persons who are
deemed to be wanted in a foreign jurisdic-
tion 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 reviewed.
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
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