Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Belize Times has been reliably informed that political cronies/officials in BTL, in the GST Department and in the Ministry of Finance, at the highest levels, are scurrying for cover and frantically trying to deny all allegations and dodge all questions after the shocking revelation that BTL allegedly owes over $29 MILLION in General Sales Tax, unpaid since 2012.

According to official documents leaked to this newspaper, in 2012 the Barrow-operated entity, chock full of UDP cronies including the son of the Prime Minister and his CEO, Audrey Wallace in leadership positions, reported sales of just over $25M. So it should have paid GST of around $3.1M, but according to sources within the department, it didn’t. In 2013, BTL reported sales of over $28M, but allegedly did not pay in GST of over $3.5M. In 2014, BTL again reported sales of over $28M, but nothing paid to GST. In 2015, sales of over $36M, but reportedly no payment to GST of over $4.5M due. In 2016, $28M in sales, but $3.5M reportedly not paid to GST. And in 2017, BTL reported sales of over $49M, but allegedly did not pay in $6.1M due to GST.

How could this company, which the Prime Minister has boasted of to no end, and which he forced taxpayers to pay nearly $600M for after a closed door agreement with Lord Ashcroft, owe almost $30MILLION in GST? That’s a question everybody is asking but nobody is answering. The PM’s legal advisor and head honcho on the Board, Net Vasquez, isn’t taking calls. And sources say that Financial Secretary Joseph Waight has developed a sudden and startling case of amnesia.

The Belize Times has gone further than the $29M, and has calculated what BTL’s debt to the GST Department is, including late fees and penalties and interest – just like any normal Belizean owing GST would have to find if they miss a deadline for payment. Incredibly, all things equal, BTL owes the GST Department $21M in interest and penalties for non-payment, for a grand total of over $50MILLION.

That is an absolute disgrace, and all blame must fall squarely in the lap of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who is not only the Minister of Finance, in charge of the GST Department, but also should be responsible for Belize’s stakes in BTL, which has become known as Barrow Telemedia Limited. BTL, or at least the UDP cronies who command HUGE salaries at BTL. These have benefitted from the incestuous relationships with the Barrow administration, enjoying write-offs and bailouts to time, including infusions of cash from a Barrow-friendly Taiwan government, a UDP controlled SSB and a very UDP-friendly Atlantic Bank.

The GST Department has been known to completely humiliate small business-owners who have fallen behind in payment, even behind by hundreds and thousands of dollars. So for BTL to be given a free pass where GST is concerned may be criminal. In normal countries with normal people, the Minister of Finance would be forced to resign, and the entire UDP-infiltrated BTL dolly-house would crumble.

The people of Belize must demand an accounting from Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the principals of BTL. That money owed to the GST is taxpayers’ money which could have been used to better the lives of Belizeans. While so many basic services are falling apart, and Belizeans can’t access quality healthcare services, BTL is allowed to owe tens of millions of dollars. While so many children are dropping out of school because they cannot afford to continue, BTL is allowed to owe tens of millions of dollars. Imagine what that $29M in unpaid taxes could have done for the people of Belize. Imagine the possibilities.

The UDP continues to rape this country. Only a very few – Ministers and their family members and their cronies and select friends continue to prosper, laughing all the way to the bank, while normal Belizeans are becoming poorer and poorer. Dean Barrow must answer for what he has done to the people, and to the people’s money. WE DEMAND OUR TAXES from BARROW TELEMEDIA LIMITED.