BELMOPAN, Sat. Apr. 10, 2021– During an interview after the House of Representatives meeting was adjourned on Friday, the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, was asked to comment on reports that Speednet Communications Ltd., the parent company of Smart Belize, allegedly owes about $11.1 million in GST to the Government of Belize.
The Prime Minister’s sister, Vanessa Briceño, is the listed taxpayer for the company, which has fallen deep in a tax hole due to an accumulation of interest and penalties on the original amount that was owed due to an extended period of non-payment of the outstanding taxes.
According to the Prime Minister, Vanessa Briceño has been trying for years to address the outstanding debt. The slow pace at which the Tax Department reviews such matters has caused the allegedly overstated charges to remain on the books for a prolonged period, and during that time additional interest charges and other fees have mounted , according to PM Briceño. He calls the situation totally ridiculous.
“Vanessa, without talking about her private business, has been trying to correct that for a very long time. Because it seems like the way the GST was charging the GST, they were charging the GST on the gross sales when the GST should only be charged, as you know, on the amount of the value that you put on. And the value that they are getting is about 12 cents on what is being sold. And because they have been back and forth they are working up the interest and the penalties, and it is going up — a totally ridiculous situation,” stated Hon. Briceño.
And while the total amount owed by Vanessa Briceño is estimated to be around 11.1 million dollars, the Prime Minister said that ultimately the actual amount outstanding is nowhere near that number.
“The sum, what I know, is not even a quarter of what they are asking for. It is not even a million dollars of what we are talking about, because they started charging her this the day she became an agent for SMART. And from what she has told me, she, back then, thought that SMART was paying the GST. She was not aware that she should have paid. And so, when it was brought to our attention many years later, that is where we are. So it is not going to be anything close to that,” said Hon. Briceño.