By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A WELL-KNOW QC yesterday said he was expecting instructions “any day now” to mount a class action lawsuit against the Government over new taxes, adding that, “Everything Freeport is supposed to stand for, the Government continues to suck from it.”
Fred Smith QC, the Callenders and Co attorney and partner, told Tribune Business: “We are waiting for the Chamber of Commerce to sort of round up the team as it were and we’re expecting instruction any day now to mount an action against the Government. Whether it is through the Chamber of Commerce or through individual licensees or a collective group of licensees ,a class action will be mounted against the Government for this continuing abuse. It’s an action that will probably chronologise the year after year abuse so that the court understands that this is not just an isolated incident of wrongdoing by the Government. Year after year the Government finds some way to penalise and tax a place called Free-port which is not supposed to have taxes. Everything Freeport is supposed to stand for the Government continues to suck from it.”
The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce recently held a Town Hall meeting to discuss new Customs regulations, VAT and the 2015 Hawksbill Creek Land Act. The taxes that have caused most consternation in Freeport are the new 1 per cent Customs administrative processing fee; the ‘Environmental Levy’, and the host of aviation-related fees. “It’s so good to see the licensees finally sticking up for themselves. In the late 1960s they were brutalised with the licensing and immigration issues. It’s taken licensees a long time to recover from the illegal barbaric treatment visited on them by the Government in the late 60s and early 70s. Since then they have been left to the tender mercies of the Port Authority and successive governments. It’s been a real pity that the Government not only stripped the licensees of their rights but also the Port Authority and so the Port Authority become nothing more than a vessel for exacting taxes from licensees and licensees got nothing back in return for decades and decades,” said Mr Smith.