The charges against fugitive businessman, Dave Ames, shows that prosecutors are inclined to take action against persons who do not pay into the Government taxes deducted from wages and value added tax receipts, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told the media last week.
The Crown has brought several theft and tax evasion charges against Ames, who has British and Vincentian citizenship.
Persecutors are claiming that he failed to pay over to the state some EC$7 million in trust monies.
Ames is founder of Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, parent company of Buccament Bay Resort Ltd. and Harlequin Property SVG Ltd.
He left St. Vincent in June after being summoned to court to answer the charges, but before the court hearing, and is now considered a fugitive.
Speaking on the matter last week, Gonsalves, who is Minister of Finance, Legal Affair and National Security, said:
“I just want to say this, that something which is salutary, which persons who are alleged … to have deducted P.A.Y.E. taxes and not pay them over to Income Tax and who collect VAT, which are clearly trust monies … I hope that employers realise that they can be subject not only to a civil process but also to a process within the framework of the criminal law.”
Gonsalves, who is also a lawyer, said the basic principle of the law is that the pay as you earn (P.A.Y.E.) and the VAT monies are funds held by the employers in trust for the State.
“And it is your duty to pay it over in a particular period of time. That’s why the law has certain high penalties from a civil standpoint,” he said.
He, however, told reporters that the tax authorities try their best to have voluntary compliance and will work with people over and over.
“But the point comes when the tax authorities have to decide that our patience has worn thin and that we have to do something. It is the same way what happens in the US. Maybe the inland revenue in the US, their patience is a little shorter than here, but, I think it is the first time, correct me if I am wrong, that the Director of Public Prosecution has been sent a file.
“And if the Director of Public Prosecutions is sent a file for one taxpayer who is a British national and a Vincentian national, it means that he is at liberty to send similar files,” Gonsalves said.
He, however, noted that what action is taken is the judgment of the DPP, who is the complainant.
“So I’m urging that persons who owe VAT and who owe PAYE, that they deduct the tax and don’t pay it over, and they collect the VAT and don’t pay it over, that you may say that, ‘Well, what can they do? My business is running to the ground.’ Well, if you are the owner of the business or the manager, the miner of the business, there are other steps which the authorities can take, which is an important point to bear in mind,” Gonsalves said.