Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dispute in the House of Assembly - the Delay of Stamp Duty Avoidance Inquiry

This week, there is one year that passed from the moment when Governor David Pearey announced the establishment of the institution of a commission of inquiry, for purposes of investigation of the cases of apparent stamp duty avoidance. However, the commission has not been named until now, and last week Julian Fraser, minister of communications and works, accused the BVI Governor Pearey of “finding all excuses” to avoid it.

Speaking at the session of the House of Assembly, Julian Fraser said that when the public accounts committee asked the governor to launch the investigation, he refused to do it, having found many excuses. Also, according to Mr. Fraser, the governor does not focus on everyone who has avoided paying the stamp duty, instead of this directing the investigation at a select group.

In a report on the deliberations of the Standing Finance Committee 2008, Mr. Fraser said that “approval would not be given by the SFC committee for the $100,000 requested for the commission of inquiry on the collection of stamp duty, as the information brought forward was not explicit enough.”

For the first time the commission establishment was recommended in March 2006, in the report made by the Public Accounts Committee. According to the March statement by Governor Pearey, after a 14-month investigation by the attorney general and the director of public prosecutions into the transactions highlighted in the report, these “were found to have given rise to an underpayment of stamp duty in excess of $500,000”. By his words, full payment of these sums is being secured, but evidence showed that this practice had been continuing over many years. The commission would examine evidence of underpayment starting from 2000.

In last week interviews, Governor Pearey said he had examined the issue carefully before making a decision on the necessity of the commission of inquiry. Gov. Pearey said the “financing aspect” of the inquiry was not part of the delay, and the investigation is moving forward. He noted that the key need is to find a suitable commissioner.

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