Saddam questions whether PM conspired to defraud BIR with townhouse purchase

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Saddam questions whether PM conspired to defraud BIR with townhouse purchase

The opposition vowed that they would not be letting up in their pursuit of the truth into the Prime Minister’s townhouse purchase in Tobago and they are keeping to their word.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Opposition MP Saddam Hosein called for an investigation, to determine whether the Prime Minister conspired to defraud the Board of Inland Revenue during the acquisition of a townhouse at Shirvan Development in Tobago.

This follows the Integrity Commission’s acknowledgement that the Prime Minister breached the integrity in public life act when he failed to declare the purchase of the Tobago townhouse to the independent body, but concluded that he did not knowingly provide false information.

Hosein raised the question whether the PM paid the correct stamp duty to the Board of Inland Revenue.

He claimed that mere months after Central Bank Governor Alvin Hilaire purchased a townhouse in 2018 for over $1.7 million, the Prime Minister paid substantially less for a larger unit.

“Eight months after Mr Hilaire purchased a smaller unit for 1.715 million dollars, Dr Rowley came in February of 2019 and purchased at 1.2 million dollars. How land works, it appreciates and with housing developments like these, when more sell the prices go up higher as demand increases and supply becomes less. There is a Kathleen Derrick who purchased in 2019 around the same time like Dr Rowley in March and she paid 1.8 million dollars.”

He noted that in 2021, Dr Rowley’s daughter also paid below the market value for another property in the gated community and on both occasions the stamp duty taxes paid were lower than those of other purchasers.

“Another townhouse was purchased by Sonel Rowley for 1.2 million dollars three years later after Alvin Hilaire purchased for 1.715 million dollars. Another Rowley purchases at 1.2 million dollars, very suspicious transactions, does Dr Rowley really expect us to believe that any hard nose businessman would sell him two townhouses that are valued at 1.8 million dollars for 1.2 million dollars and that is simply because he got lucky?”

“What was the declared market value when stamp duty was paid on these properties? Did Dr Rowley disclose the true and correct market price for these two townhouses to the BIR when he was paying stamp duty? Did he disclose that eight months before, Alvin Hilaire had purchased a similar, smaller unit for $1.715M? The records show that he used a lower purchase price to calculate and pay his stamp duty.”

Hosein added: “We call upon the Fraud Squad and the Anti-Corruption Bureau to launch an immediate investigation into this matter to determine whether Rowley committed a fraud on the Board of Inland Revenue by undervaluing these two luxury townhouses. Was the state defrauded out of stamp duty to which it was lawfully entitled based on the correct market value of these townhouses?” According to law, stamp duty must be paid when buying real estate or a home, acquiring shares, seeking a mortgage, or conducting other financial transactions. The amount of stamp duty is usually a percentage of the value of the transaction a buyer is undertaking.

According to Hosein: “The (Integrity) Commission has no legal authority to determine Rowley’s guilt or innocence. That is a matter for a court of law. It cannot be one rule for the PNM and another for the UNC. This is a clear case of different strokes for different folks. We, therefore, call upon the Integrity Commission to allow the law to take its course.”