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IRD withholding of my payment unjustified: Satu

Chief Robert Satu

DIRECTOR of Marine Mammal Educational Centre and Chief of Fishing Village, Robert Satu has lashed out on the claim by Inland Revenue Division (IRD) to withhold his SBD$8,760,143.69 based on Marine Export limited failure to submit its annual tax return.

This is in relation to the High Court decision made on a Civil Case between Marine Mammal Education Centre formerly known as Marine Export Limited represented by Mr W Rano and Attorney General represented by Mr S Banuve on November 30, 2011.

The court then, ordered the government to compensate chief Satu an amount of SBD10,101,133.75 for damages and loss of business after the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) reject to renew his export licence and complete ban on the trade of dolphin export.

As advised by the High Court, the government endorsed a payment worth of only SBD1,341,190.06 to Marine Export Limited – a payment which the owner Mr Satu described as ‘incomplete’.

It was later alleged then that the Inland Revenue made a claim against Marine Export Limited for an amount of SBD 8,760,143.69 for non-payment of Government Taxes based on default assessment claiming that the Marine Export limited failed to submit its annual tax return.

But Chief Satu said the claim by the Commissioner of IRD to withhold SBD$8,760,143.69 part of the payment is not proper and unjustified.

He said should the Commissioner of Inland Revenue have any claim against him for non-payment of tax, should have filed a separate counter claim.

Chief Satu maintained that IRD should challenge him during the course of court proceedings that is in 2002, 2005 and 2006.

He said they did not take any authority from him to withhold this amount of money.

“If the IRD has any claim against me in terms of non-payment of tax, why didn’t they make a counter claim against me during the course of the court proceedings so that it can be properly and fairly contested in the court proceedings,” he attests.

He said the Commissioner of IRD is right to withheld the money if it is in the company’s (Marine Export Ltd) Bank Account

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) pays directly according to the court order, and IRD have no right to withhold that amount of money.

Because the court ruling does not spell out IRD to hold the sum of money,” he said.

Chief Satu said IRD did have the right to hold money of Marine Export Ltd which is in its BSP or ANZ bank account, but not that $8,760,143.69 because this is a direct compensation for the damages on the business to settle outstanding bills of the people and of course some of his outstanding bills with the government.

“The total balance of SBD$8,760,143.69 withheld by IRD must be released to me at an earliest to pay for these damages and settle outstanding bills.

He said this is also a violation of the fundamental pillars of Human Right.

“They did not present any court order that I have outstanding tax payment. That money is for the damages clearly stated in the court ruling, and it’s not the money that is held in the company’s bank account,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner of Inland Revenue Division (IRD) George Tapo when contacted recently regarding this matter could not make any comments.

“Under our legislation, I cannot make any comment on issues with regard to taxation affairs,” said Mr Tapo.

However, Mr Satu said the claim could soon be tripled. This is in relation to the burning down of five buildings at Gavutu few months ago.

“Another claim that will be made soon will be bigger than the first one. It could be tripled the $10m claim.

“Five permanent buildings have been destroyed at the site by disgruntled workers who vented their anger because of the delay of this payment to clear their arrears,” said Chief Satu.

He said other properties include a generator, a cold room, nets and boats.

The outspoken Chief said he also has other outstanding bills with Our Telekom, Solomon Power, water authority in Tulagi and other business houses in Tulagi.

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