Authorities at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) through its Customs Department on Monday, February 4, 2019, uncovered a “major tax evasion scheme” at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), Lower Margibi County, involving a Hassan Aidibi, a Lebanese national.
Dekontee King-Sackie, LRA Acting Commissioner-General, told reporters on Monday that Aidibe was arrested while attempting to board Royal Air Maroc flight at about 2 a.m. Monday with a briefcase containing the gold.
“Preliminary documents retrieved so far indicate that Aidibe was transporting the gold on behalf of Gold Business Center, a duly registered entity under the laws of Liberia and licensed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) on January 24, 2017, which document expires June 26, 2019,” according to Madam Sackie.
She said the transporter processed a Customs Declaration at the Ministry of Mines and Energy for 97.94 ounces of gold at a current market value of US$95,876 and made a 3 percent royalty payment of US$2,876 into the General Revenue Account.
Madam Sackie added, “Our anti-smuggling investigators found out that the actual gold being exported by Aidibi was 56 kilograms or 1,900 ounces of gold valued at over US$2 million. The royalty (revenue) on the product under seizure is estimated at over US$50,000.”
“This discovery is believed to be one of many transactions involving multiple foreign and Liberian-owned businesses,” she said.
According to Madam Sackie, taxes evaded by multiple businesses under this scheme are estimated at over US$200,000 monthly – an amount sufficient to service the payroll for at least 1000 police officers or healthcare workers across the country.
“The preliminary analysis by our anti-smuggling investigation team suggests that such a scheme can only be successfully executed with the involvement and assistance of individuals from multiple border agencies and the airline,” Sackie said.
She said the consignment has been transferred to a government agency for custody pending full enforcement of our tax laws.
Meanwhile the LRA said investigation by its anti-smuggling officers is ongoing to determine the full extent of the scheme.
It may be recalled that a few months back, LRA arrested a Chinese national for his failure to declare some of the goods he imported into the country.
A Liberian was also arrested in May 2018, because he fronted for a Guinean national to evade taxes when he allegedly installed a Liberian license plate on a vehicle brought from Guinea for commercial purpose.
Also, that same year, LRA again arrested two Chinese business people for allegedly conniving with some unknown individuals to divert duty-free building materials, imported for construction works at the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC), to the WJ Building Materials Store on 15th Street, Sinkor, for resale.