After over five years of silence, the Government through the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) is now asking the Tax Court at the Temple of Justice to reopen the alleged US$300,139.68 and LD$37,768,444.77 tax fraud case against Srimex, an oil and gas company owned by businessman and chairman of Liberty Party (LP), Musa Bility.
Meanwhile, the court has accepted the Government’s request and therefore rescheduled the matter for reargument on Wednesday, April 21. The case has suffered setback after Bility by then had accused then Judge Mozart Chesson that he made a payment of US$23,000 of the US$117,710 that should have reduced his tax obligation to US$94,710, but the alleged US$23,000 payment did not reflect on his debt records at the Tax Court.
This time the case is expected to be heard by Judge Peter Gbeneweleh, who was recently assigned to the court by Chief Justice Francis Korkpor to replace ailing Judge Chesson.
Before Gbeneweleh could be assigned the case, Bility had even raised serious concern before the Supreme Court with regards to Judge Chesson’s alleged increment of his tax obligation from US$94,710 to US$300,130.68 and L$37,768,444.77.
By then, Judge Chesson had argued that his action came after five years of negotiation with Bility to see the reason to settle his tax evasion obligation, which Bility refused to do, arguing that he made a payment of US$23,000 that was not recorded by the court.
Chesson’s ruling against Bility, dated October 23, 2017, declared Bility liable to pay the government US$396,220.58 which includes a monthly compounded interest of US$205,420.68 for 63 months at an interest of 14% as of July 2012 plus the initial tax judgment amount of US$190,800. Enforcement of that ruling has also been stalled by the Supreme Court based on Bility’s argument that it was illegal.
In August 2012, then Judge Eva Mappy Morgan held Srimex liable for evading government taxes to the tune of US$190,800 and subsequently ordered the company’s management to make an immediate payment of 25 percent, which is US$47,700, within 24 hours of her ruling.
Judge Morgan further threatened to shut down the company if it refused to comply with her decision at that time.
Her decision came immediately after Srimex’s legal team, headed by late Cllr. Theophilus Gould, who then admitted that their client evaded government taxes.
Judge Morgan had not enforced her ruling when, in early 2013, she was reassigned by the Chief Justice Francis Korkpor to head the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice. Initially, Bility has made several payments through the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), including a check dated June 17, 2017, in the amount of US$28,590 that was paid on June 20, 2017, excluding the US$23,000.
Judge Chesson had consistently rejected Bility’s US$23,000 allegation, arguing that Bility’s lawyer, late Counselor Theophilus Gould, in 2016 presented the check of US$23,000 to the court.
Later it was reported that Chesson returned the check to Gould, who is now deceased, with a reservation that he should encash it (check) and subsequently bring the cash to the court because the court was interested in the cash and not in the check.