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'Witch-hunt' - Digicel accuses tax agency

Published:Sunday | May 6, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) is not backing down despite threats of legal action by telecommunications giant Digicel following a raid at the company's New Kingston head office on Friday.

The state agency is standing by its decision, which saw its agents securing and using a search warrant issued by a judge of the Supreme Court to carry out the raid at the offices of Digicel.

The sole purpose of the operation was to ensure that General Consumption Tax (GCT) paid by customers was paid over in full to the tax authorities, TAJ information director Meris Haughton said in a release yesterday.

She said negotiations since December 2011 with Digicel "failed to provide all relevant information requested".

Haughton added: "The operation was done with the support of the police, who acted professionally at all times.

"By virtue of Section 17J of the Revenue Administration Act, TAJ is empowered to seek and use a search warrant to retrieve records and documents from any taxpayer in circumstances where this becomes necessary, once it is clearly demonstrated to the court that this action is warranted under the given circumstances."

She said the TAJ wanted to assure the public that it has "absolutely no interest in the details of any customer, but only the value of transactions".

Digicel's displeasure

The TAJ release was issued after Digicel voiced its displeasure at what it said was "TAJ officials accompanied by members of the police force bearing high-powered firearms who prevented Digicel staff leaving at the end of the working day".

According to Digicel, it has at all times cooperated and complied with the various information requests made, subject to the constraints of the Telecommunications Act in terms of the protection of confidential customer information.

The company said it was "shocked and offended by the abuse of process and approach undertaken by the TAJ in this matter - especially as all information which the TAJ was seeking pursuant to the order, and which the Telecommunications Act allowed Digicel to provide, had already been supplied".

Digicel said late Friday evening it secured a stay of execution from High Court judge Evan Brown which prevented the TAJ from continuing to carry out the search, but the state agents initially refused to acknowledge the court order.

The company said it strongly denies any form of wrongdoing, which is to be inferred from what it considers to be "a blatant witch-hunt and fishing expedition" on the part of TAJ.

The telecommunications company said it is prepared to go after those involved - either directly or indirectly - and will be returning to court on Tuesday to pursue the matter.