Contractor in court for tax evasion and forgery

POSTED: 12/5/13 11:42 AM

Energizer allegedly ducked $3.2 million in wage and turnover tax and social premiums

St. Maarten – “Your honor, I am a contractor, not an administrator,” said Silvio Jan M., owner of Energizer NV a company that was involved as a subcontractor in the construction of the Westin Hotel, Porto Cupecoy and the expansion of the harbor back in 2006. The 47-year-old contractor ended up in court because the Public Prosecutor’s Office has charged him with evading wage taxes, social premiums and turnover tax to the tune of $3.2 million. The first skirmishes in court took place yesterday morning, but the court postponed the trial to an unspecified date next year – at least six months from now at the request of M.’s attorney  Cor Merx.

Prosecutor  Gonda van der Wulp told the court yesterday that the defendant is charged with failing to declare wage taxes and social premiums for almost five years – from January 1, 2006 until October 9, 2010. He is also charged with forgery and with failing to declare turnover tax between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007. The tax inspectorate has slapped M. with a $2 million fine.

Attorney Merx asked the court for the return of the company’s administration that was hauled in a police truck to the office of the tax inspectorate last year. “My client needs these documents to prepare his annual account. He also needs the labor contracts to calculate the wage taxes.” The attorney said that among the confiscated administration are also “personal effects” of his client’s little daughter.

Prosecutor Van der Wulp does not intend to return the administration. “All documents can be reviewed and we also have a possibility for copying documents,” she said. “I am not going to return them because then I do not have a grip on the evidence anymore.”

Merx countered that according to the law his client is entitled to the documents, but that did not budge the prosecutor from her position. Merx said that the certified public accountant for his client does not wish to go and sit at the tax office to study the administration that consists of countless boxes filled with documents covering a near five-year period.

Judge  Koos van de Ven suggested in the end that the defendant hire “people with some administrative knowledge” to go through the administration at the tax office and to prepare a “filtered file” for the certified public accountant. The judge ruled that the administration will remain under the control of the prosecutor’s office.

Another bone of contention is the turnover tax Energizer did not pay in 2006 and 2007.  Merx told the court that the main contractors for the  three projects – the construction of the Westin Hotel in Dawn Beach, Porto Cupecoy in Cupecoy and the expansion of the harbor – had been granted an exemption from turnover tax from the tax inspectorate. “If the main contractor has an exemption, it also applies to all sub-contractors,” he said. “These contractors told my client to submit invoices without turnover tax.”

How valid this argument is remains to be seen because a representative of the tax inspectorate who attended the court hearing shook his head and made a dismissive gesture.

Merx asked the court to hear the tax inspector as a witness before the Judge of Instruction. Judge Van de Ven suggested to the defendant that he obtains proof from the main contractors that he fell under the exemption for the turnover tax.

Prosecutor Van der Wulp suggested to do the trial on March 20, but Merx had another idea. “The prosecution had 18 months to study the administration of my client. I need at least six months to go through this material.”

Judge Van de Ven rules that the case will be postponed until an unspecified future date; he referred the investigation back to the Judge of Instruction and granted the defense the right to hear two witnesses, among them the tax inspector. Energizer’s administration remains in the custody of the prosecutor’s office.

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