An import and general merchant company, Mansell Ghana Limited, and three of its directors have been hauled before the Accra High Court for allegedly failing to pay taxes and duties worth over GH¢300 million to the state.
Mansell Limited, which deals in the importation and wholesale of rice, sugar and other products, and the directors are facing trial at the Tax Division of the Accra High Court on two counts of failing to pay tax, contrary to Section 80 of the Revenue Administration Act , 2016 (Act 915).
The directors are Rami Mohammed Andan El-Ashkar, a shareholder and Managing Director; Radwan El-Ashkar, Executive Director, and Navin Kumar, Director.
It is the case of the prosecution that a tax assessment carried out on the company revealed a tax liability of GH¢332,126,425.88 between October 2007 and August 2018.
When the case was called last Friday, El-Ashkar, who represented the accused persons, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The court, presided over by Justice Margaret Welbourne, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as a High Court judge, admitted El-Ashkar to bail in the sum of GH¢150m, with two sureties, one to be justified.
As part of the bail condition, the accused person must report himself to the police on Monday once every three weeks.
Justice Welbourne also directed the registrar of the court to ascertain the residential address of the accused person.
Case for bail
Making a case for bail, counsel for the accused , Mr Kwaku Gyau Baffour, submitted that his client was sick and needed urgent medical attention.
Again, counsel said the accused person was a first time offender, had many business interests in Ghana and would always make himself available to stand trial and defend himself.
“He has a fixed place of abode and we can guarantee his presence to stand trial,” he said.
The prosecutor, Mr Joseph Owusu, did not oppose bail but urged the court to attach stringent conditions that would ensure the accused person’s constant presence to stand trial.
Hearing continues on March 18.
Alleged tax evasion
Presenting the facts, Mr Owusu told the court that Mansell Limited, apart from its import and wholesale business, was also licensed by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to operate two private bonded warehouses at the Tema Industrial Area.
According to the prosecutor, in August 2018, the GRA conducted a stocktaking exercise at one of the warehouses, which revealed that Mansell had a tax liability of GH¢197,613,667.57 from July 2012 to August 2018.
“This was as a result of two infractions of tax laws — the company had taken 735,568 bags of white Brazilian crystal sugar without payment of the duties and taxes due thereon and also bagged Brazilian crystal sugar, Vietnamese Jasmine rice and white rice that had overstayed the statutory period of 12 months permitted for warehoused goods,” he said.
With regard to the other warehouse, the prosecutor said, the GRA established a tax liability of GH¢134,513,760.31 from October 2007 to August 2018.
“The tax liability arose from two infractions of the tax laws — the company took bags of rice, crystal sugar and skimmed milk without payment of the appropriate duties and taxes and also bagged Brazilian crystal sugar, Vietnamese Jasmine rice and Vietnamese white rice that had overstayed the statutory period of 12 months permitted for warehoused goods,” he added.
Mr Owusu explained that the accused persons had failed to pay the taxes, despite persistent efforts from the GRA.
Also, he said, moves by the GRA to recover the money, including garnishment of the accounts of the company, had not yielded any significant payment of the indebtedness to the state.
In October last year, the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, established a Tax Division of the Accra High Court to hear and determine tax-related offences.
The tax court was established as part of efforts to streamline and speed up the adjudication of tax-related offences.
The court is currently hearing alleged tax evasion cases involving numerous firms in the mining, energy, commodity and other industries.