Magistrate throws out case against Atlantic Fuels for falsifying invoice
Magistrate Dylon Bess has thrown out the charge of falsifying an invoice against the Director of Atlantic Fuels Inc (AFI), Eugene Gilbert after ruling that the falsity was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The charge was filed in January 2021 by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
It read that on November 12, 2020, at GRA’s Camp Street, Georgetown Headquarters, Atlantic Fuels Inc caused to be made and subscribed a false declaration on invoice number 100 valued $40 million for customs declaration reference number GY 410C, contrary to the Customs Act.
Gilbert, 68, had pleaded not guilty and was granted $300,000 bail.
It is contrary to Section 217 (1) (a) of the Customs Act which reads “Any person who, in any matter relating to the customs, or under the control or management of the comptroller- (a) makes and subscribed, or causes to be made and subscribed, any false declaration; …”, on summary conviction, that person is liable to a fine of $25,000, together with imprisonment for three years.
According to the company’s lawyer, Siand Dhurjon, the charge was dismissed on Wednesday after the presiding Magistrate upheld the no-case submission he made on AFI’s behalf.
Dhurjon said that the Magistrate ruled in favour of his submission that the falsity of the invoice was not proven and that the charge lacked the specificity of the falsity being alleged by the GRA.
“The Magistrate was at a loss, for the court could not know if the falsity alleged had to do with the value declared, the amount of fuel declared, or the supplier,” Dhurjon pointed out.
He said that the Magistrate reminded GRA counsel Jason Moore “that a court must never have to speculate and that an accused must always know the case he has to meet”.
Considering the court’s finding, the AFI lawyer noted that Magistrate Bess held that GRA failed to make out the charge against the company even at the preliminary prima facie stage.
According to Dhurjon, the charge stemmed from a quantity of fuel that was imported by AFI in November 2020 which was seized by the GRA and the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) owing to their suspicion that AFI had falsified an invoice in relation to the fuel.
Dhurjon added that he approached the High Court on the company’s behalf; and as a result, Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, SC, on March 15, 2021, ruled that the fuel ought to be released to AFI, because there was no lawful reason for its detention.
The lawyer reminded that Justice George also ordered the GRA and the GEA to pay AFI around $15 million, representing costs for storing the fuel and damages for their illegal detention of the fuel.
In relation to the revocation of the company’s fuel importation licence, Dhurjon stated that he also sought the intervention of the High Court. This, he said, ended in Justice Franklyn Holder ruling that there was no basis in law for the revocation of the licence.
The GEA was also ordered by the Judge to reinstate AFI’s licence.
The charge filed by the GEA against AFI for knowingly furnishing false information to the GEA is due for a decision on Friday, on whether the court will uphold Dhurjon’s no-case submission.
In November 2015, AFI, which is located at Lot 16 Sublot ‘A’ Mudlot, Kingston, Georgetown, was granted a licence to import/wholesale, and store fuel by the GEA. The licence was valid until 2025. (G1)