PM criticizes Tuitt’s remarks

POSTED: 08/22/13 12:32 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams severely criticized the remarks former Finance Minister Roland Tuitt made last week during a press conference at the rehab center Turning Point. Tuitt blasted the government for the tax deal with the American University of the Caribbean and for the continued payment of so-called mobilization costs for the new government administration building on Pond Island to contractor Betonbouw – without mentioning the name of either party.

Wescot-Williams referred to Tuitt’s statement that he had “started a procedure to stop the activities” with regard to the mobilization costs. “Then I ask myself: where, what, how?” the pm said. “This is such a flimsy statement. So he started, but how come he did not finish it? How long was the project on his desk since he took office? If the media and the people cannot see through those statements then it does not make sense for me to react to it.”

Wescot-Williams also scoffed Tuitt for not calling the name of the entity in the tax deal while it was clear that it was about the American University. “There is a law regarding how you put out tax information,” she warned.

In the meantime it has become clear that the former owners of the University of the Caribbean stood to pay 25 percent discontinuation tax on the $200 million value of their business when they sold it to Devry Inc. in 2011. The company negotiated a sweet deal with the tax inspectorate: instead of 25 percent, it paid just 3.6 percent – a deal which is now the subject of a legal challenge.

Wescot-Williams did not want to comment on the procedures the tax office followed when it took this decision. “I would not be able to say anything about that, though my guess would be, in general, that this takes place in discussions with others. That is my impression, but I don’t know how this went in this particular case.”

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