By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest said the opposition will press Prime Minister Perry Christie in Parliament about billionaire investor Philip Ruffin’s failure to pay millions of dollars in owed casino taxes.
Tribune Business reported two weeks ago that the auditor general’s report for the year ending June 2014 showed that the former Crystal Palace owner owed $7.277m in taxes, an increase from the previously reported $5.13m.
This comes even though Mr Christie said in 2014 that the auditor general’s previous report on the number of taxes Mr Ruffin owed was incorrect, suggesting that the outstanding casino tax balance was settled when Mr Ruffin sold the Wyndham and Crystal Palace casino to Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian.
Mr Christie said at the time: “Just let me put on the record that at the time of the purchase of those facilities, all taxes would have been paid. All taxes that were legally due to the government would have been paid. That is the assertion I make. I am going to be able to put it on the record. I am going to speak to Ministry of Finance officials just to be able to confirm and verify that point.”
Mr Ruffin was a client of Mr Christie and Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis’ law firm when they were in private practice.
Mr Ruffin has maintained close ties to Mr Christie.
“This has been going on for a number of years,” Mr Turnquest said when contacted yesterday. “The matter was raised in the last audit as well. The prime minister indicated the bill had been paid even though the auditor indicated that it hadn’t been paid and that it’s clear the funds are outstanding. The obligation is now on the government to go out and collect the money.”
Mr Turnquest said the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), of which he is a member, would not investigate the issue because it has already been settled by the auditor general.
However, he said “absolutely we will raise it” in Parliament, particularly during the mid-year budget debate.
“This demonstrates a lack of will because of people affiliated with this government. We squeeze ordinary Bahamians for business license and value added tax (VAT) fees. This doesn’t send a good message that we are allowing these wealthy foreign individuals to get off scot free.”