Tuesday, February 7, 2012

AG says several local lawyers under scrutiny on alleged tax evasion

In the wake of the Emerald Cay judgment, authorities have widened their investigations, bringing under scrutiny several local lawyers, according to Attorney General Huw Shepheard.

The AG, in an invited comment on Thursday, said the two lawyers involved in the Emerald Cay Claim, where the judgment was made on Thursday in favour of the government, are still under investigation.

"I expect to have a report soon," he said.

The AG added that the investigation has widened beyond the Emerald Cay Claim and several other local lawyers have come under scrutiny for alleged tax evasion.

"A number of allegations are being investigated in the evasion of stamp duty…at present I am not at liberty to disclose the particulars, but investigations are underway," he said.

Following a ruling in June by Chief Justice Martin, a visiting Judge at the time, an investigation into the actions of the two local lawyers involved in the Emerald Cay deal was recommended.

Justice Martin, at the time said, "On any assessment of the facts this was a carefully crafted scheme of tax evasion. It would not have been possible without the assistance of attorneys."

Martin noted that he found that papers relating to the deal were "fraudulent devices to hide the true consideration being paid".

On August 31, the AG announced he had paid heed to Justice Martin’s words and had asked Helen Garlick's Special Investigative Prosecution Team (SIPT) team to probe the profession.

Shepheard came under fire last year by the local Bar Association who accused him of tarnishing the image of the TCI legal profession.

They have reacted furiously to a statement Shepheard announcing a probe to determine whether attorneys habitually assist in stamp duty fraud; a statement the Bar Council called "reckless".

At the time, Bar Council president, George Missick, said, "Although it does not say so, it has led many to believe that the entire profession is to be investigated with the effect that it has diminished the reputation of attorneys and the practice of law in these islands."

By Vaness Narine

Source: Turks and Caicos Weekly News

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