KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Six international firms here will be soon undergo government-commissioned forensic audits.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ralph Gonsalves cited “issues” as he made the announcement at a press briefing on Monday but denied knowledge of which companies would be audited.

He said that the audits are not being done “off the seat of anybody’s pants” but in keeping with the nation’s insurance laws.

“… I am urging everyone who owes … the government taxes, they must pay, including big companies, those who owe VAT, those who owe company taxes, those who are withholding taxes,” he said.

He made the point at the end of a discussion about telecommunication company LIME, which two weeks ago blocked incoming and outgoing calls to government telephones, including at police stations, school, and clinics.

The company — previously Cable and Wireless — was the subject of a government audit that uncovered EC$26 million in outstanding taxes after Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party came to office in 2001.

LIME is claiming that the government owes EC$2.6 million for telephone services but the government says it owes EC$1.1 million at the most.

“I want to indicate to the nation that everything is done fairly and I have given instructions as the minister responsible for taxation, for six … international companies which operate in St. Vincent – I am not going to say which ones – to be audited forensically in respect of taxes,” Gonsalves said.

“Because some of them, we have some issues. I am not accusing anybody of hiding or evading or avoiding taxes. No! I just say we have some issues,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs.

He said that while he does not “get involved in … anybody’s individual taxes”, he “gave the approval to the Comptroller of Inland Revenue in respect of hiring this forensic auditor.

“I don’t know the companies who are going to be audited. I am not interested in knowing the names of the companies who are going to be audited. Just to make sure that those whom the Comptroller feels should be subject to those special audits, that it be done,” Gonsalves said.

“And I am sure that in the same way in which the Comptroller has done audits before by his department by forensic audits, he will continue to be fair and reasonable to all of these entities within the framework of the law, which is the way this government, this administration, conducts its business,” he further stated.

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