Flagstaff House Goes Ruthless

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…Gets Two Indian Tax Invaders Remanded

By Alfred K. Dogbey

A bail application, seeking to free two Indian nationals from continuous stay in police custody for allegedly defrauding the state through tax evasion was on Wednesday rejected by the Accra Circuit Court 1 of the Cocoa Affairs Court.

Anil Lakhiani and Sundeep Dhawan Sonu have, therefore, been remanded in police custody for five days to reappear on May 12, 2014.

The arrest and prosecution of the two Indians, who are officials of Top industries and Excellence Limited, forms part of the government’s crackdown on tax evaders in an effort to raise resources to meet development challenges, especially the building of roads, schools, hospitals, provision of water and electricity among other social amenities.

They were busted by the Presidential Taskforce set up by President John Dramani Mahama in collaboration with the Custom Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Ghana Ports and Habours Authority (GPHA), Trade and the Transport Ministries, to monitor the activities of importers and other businesses operating in Ghana with respect to revenue generation.

The two were slapped with four counts of charges including, smuggling after they were discovered to have evade Ghana’s tax laws, Contrary to Section 40 of the Free Zones Act, 1995, Act 504 and Section 317 (1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, Act 29.

The visibly shaken company officials, were in court with their lawyers, Christopher Amanortey and Nana Owusu Bonus from the Akosombo Chambers at Labone who respectively demanded bail for them.

However, the court presided over by Justice Francis Obiri Buahene, did not grant them bail, but remanded them in police custody to reappear on Monday, May 12, 2014.

Mr. Amanortey later told The Herald that they are hopeful the court would grant their clients bail on the next sitting date.

Narrating the fact of the case, the Prosecuting Officer, ASP A.A Annor said, Anil Lakhiani, is the Managing Director of Top Industries, a company registered as a Freezone Company under the Free zones Act, 1995, Act 504 located in the Free zones Enclave near Tema Industrial Area.

Sundeep Sonu Dhawan is an India businessman based in Ghana and working with XLNC Company Limited as its Managing Director.

While, Sundeep Sonu Dhawan’s company imports alcohol into Ghana, Anil Lakhiani’s company is into the manufacturing of poly-sack and some rubber products.

With respect to Anil Lakhiani’s case, ASP Annor told the court that, “for their production, they require very limited quantity of substance [alcohol] to be used in diluting paints to print various descriptions on the poly-sacks. For this purpose the accused is allowed to import quantities of Isopropyl Alcohol as raw material for this printing purpose only”.

However, under the Free zones Act, raw materials imported for the manufacturing by companies register and operating in the Free Zones Enclave are cleared at the port without import duties. Based on this, all raw materials imported by Top Industries including, the Isopropyl Alcohol are imported duty free.

The Prosecutor said that intelligence gathered over the period revealed that, the volume of alcohol imported by Anil Lakhiani’s company over the period were very high and suspicious. For the year 2013, the accused imported six thousand, one hundred and sixty-four (6,164) drums of the Isopropyl Alcohol in twelve (12) consignments and cleared same duty free into the country.

He said, investigations revealed that the accused was engaged in the smuggling of the alcohol out of the free zones enclave for sale by the second accused in the open market. The second accused who owned a wholesale at South Industrial Area is the recipient of the smuggled alcohol which he stores in his warehouse and sell to the public.

According to ASP Annor, in the last week of March, 2014, the first accused sold five hundred drums of the isopropyl alcohol to the second accused.

On April 2, 2014, while conveying another sixty drums in the night, an intelligence team from the Custom Division of GRA caught up with the transporter.

He said, the two accused persons and other persons connected to the smuggling were subsequently arrested. The four hundred and sixty (460) drums together with another ninety (90) drums found in the warehouses of the second accused were impounded.

The Prosecutor explained to the Court that, the accused, Anil Lakhiani confessed to the crime and claimed that, his company has gone low on production, hence he smuggled the alcohol to sell to make some money.

He noted that the accused, Sundeep Sonu Dhawan, also admitted he was aware the alcohol was imported duty free into the free zones enclave by the first accused. After the investigations, the two accused were charged with the offence.

The two officials have, therefore, been implicated in exploiting the incentives provided under the Free Zones law to evade taxes close to 94,000 cedis.

Anil Lakhiani’s, first charge is the smuggling of four hundred drums of Isoprophl alcohol valued at 380, 0000 cedis from the Freezones enclave last month (March).

Anil Lakhiani in the second charge is also accused of smuggling sixty drums of Isoprophl alcohol valued at 57,000 cedis from the free zones enclave on April 2.

His conduct is said to be contrary to section 40 of the free zones Act, 1995, Act 504.

The second accused, Sundeep Sonu Dhawan’s, is accused of purchasing four hundred drums of Isoprophl alcohol valued at 380,000 cedis from Anil Lakhiani, knowing very well it was uncustomed goods last month (March).

Sundeep Sonu Dhawan is again accused of purchasing 60 drums of Isoprophl alcohol valued at 57,000 cedis from Anil Lakhiani, again knowing it was uncustomed goods on April 2, 2014.

The second accussed conduct is also contrary to section 317(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, Act 29.
The Herald’s sources inside the Flagstaff House, tell the paper that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, which is part of the Presidential Taskforce is processing officials of more companies to court for tax evasion.

In the meantime, some of the companies have accepted liability and are either paying the taxes they have evaded or are making effort to pay.

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