As the campaign for the May 24 general election heats up, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart last night called on Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Mia Mottley to give account of millions of dollars in tax waivers which reportedly occurred under the last BLP administration, including a near half million dollar write-off to her dad.
“Elliott Deighton Mottley had two judgments lodged against him for monies due and owing to the Income Tax Department upwards of $1 million. In 1998, I walked in the Registry one morning and everyone had frowns on their faces. They were saying that here it is that we have to pay our taxes but yet over $400,000 of that tax obligation was being written off by the Owen Arthur administration,” said Stuart, who was addressing a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) meeting at Carlisle House car park, The City.
The Prime Minister however sought to distance his BLP predecessor from the dubious transaction, explaining that while Arthur had denied the request for the write-off, it was granted as soon as he left the country.
“My most diligent enquiries revealed that the matter had been raised with Arthur and he said, ‘under no condition could that write-off be given’, but as soon as he turned his back and travelled overseas, it happened,” Stuart claimed, adding that “there was a certain stage in Arthur’s incumbency that he was afraid to go as far as St Vincent because he did not know what he would find when he returned”.
While calling on Mottley to reveal who was behind the decision, the DLP leader also charged that in 2002, during the merger of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and Barclays, a circumvention by a member of the then Arthur Cabinet had cost the country $87 million in property transfer tax and stamp duty.
“The banks were informed that it was not just an issue of a change of name because it was revealed that Barclays was going to be selling its shares to CIBC and as a external company they were required to pay property transfer tax and stamp duty. [However] all of a sudden, the people at the Corporate Registry started receiving telephone calls from somebody that they described as Miss Mottley asking, ‘why the transaction was taking so long,’” Stuart charged.
“The Prime Minister at the time, Mr Arthur, left the country on Government business and before the legal opinion from the Solicitor General’s Office could be gotten back, a waiver of property tax and stamp duty had been given to Barclays Bank.
“I don’t know who granted the waiver, but I know that my most diligent enquiries have revealed that the substantive Prime Minister was not in the island, so he could not have exercised any discretionary power under Section 86 of Financial Institutions Act,” Stuart said, adding that “my intelligence has not disclosed that any other minister was calling at the Corporate Registry asking, ‘why the thing is taking so long.'”
However, “the Treasury of Barbados had to forego the sum of $87 million,” he stressed.
During the meeting, a charge was also laid by Stuart that back in 2013 Mottley had arranged for Arthur to attend a meeting involving another Caribbean Community country and Venezuela at which Barbados’ foreign policy position was to be discussed in exchange for a campaign contribution. However, he said Arthur had refused to accept the offer.
Earlier in the night, Mottley’s record was also put under the microscope by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, who charged that it was brought to his attention that she had sought to secure over a million dollars in legal fees for herself to the detriment of investors and shareholders in the Four Seasons project.
Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley, who was recently appointed a Queen’s Counsel, also sought to have Mottley tried in the court of public opinion and found her “guilty” of mismanaging several projects which occurred under her watch, including the Crab Hill police station.