By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
DIONISIO D’Aguilar yesterday slammed fresh attempts to smear him as “lies, half truths and utter distortions”, following claims his Superwash business deliberately under-valued a shipment of imported washers by $100,000.
The FNM’s Freetown candidate told Tribune Business that the latest attempt to portray him as an “habitual tax dodger” showed the governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), and particularly its chairman, Bradley Roberts, were “becoming more and more desperate” in their efforts to retain power.
Mr D’Aguilar declined to respond directly to the ‘tax evasion’ claims against him, saying he would “not sling mud with the PLP’”, and instead added that he was focusing on how to make the Bahamas better.
The Superwash president was responding to the latest ‘document dump’ by Mr Roberts, which showed that a broker acting on the laundromat chain’s behalf had submitted “a falsified invoice” to Customs in June 2013.
The broker, High Rollers Trucking, submitted an invoice in its name for 21 commercial washers, 33 commercial dryers and 53 coin boxes, valuing the shipment at $159,165. Freight charges brought the total to $160,760.
However, the original invoice, sent to Superwash by Florida-based Laundry Pro on April 5, 2013, valued the shipment with freight at $260,498 - an almost $100,000 difference.
This was picked up by Brian Wallace, a Customs officer at the Gladstone Road freight terminal, when the goods - placed in the name of High Rollers Trucking - arrived via two shipments on Richard Shipping on June 4, 2013.
Mr Wallace, in a July 23, 2013, letter to the Customs Comptroller, said another Customs officer released one of the shipments, identified as RS16266W.
“However, it was noted that the entry was no longer attached in the CAS (Customs Automated System) to RS16266W, and was now placed on RS16256 (two containers,” Mr Wallace wrote, referring to the other shipment.
“This left RS16266W as an outstanding shipment.... On obtaining a copy of the documents for these shipments and comparing them with those submitted, it is very clear that the invoice submitted was falsified. Thus revenues had been lost. This invoice shows that this shipment was undervalued by $140,872.”
Based on the maths, and the figures contained in the documents, the under-valuation appears to be $100,872. However, taking the $140,872, Mr Roberts yesterday alleged that the under-valuation and falsified invoice had cost the Government $63,392.
The documents released by Mr Roberts, though, suggest that it was High Rollers Trucking, the broker, that was the guilty party, not Superwash and Mr D’Aguilar. Not least because the documents are all in the broker’s name.
A letter written by Mr D’Aguilar to the Customs Comptroller on July 31, 2013, confirms the shipment’s total value of $260,498, which indicates he made no attempt to hide it once queried.
“Please accept this letter as confirmation that the Laundry Shop ‘sales order’ representing washer/dryer items totalling $260,498 dated April 5,2013, is a pro forma document,” Mr D’Aguilar wrote.
“This shipment was consigned to Highrollers Trucking Company. Highrollers Trucking Company, as the proprietor of the shipment of items, was responsible for the transactions from Laundry Shop as reflected on their commercial invoice totalling $160,760. We appreciate a speedy conclusion of this matter.”
Mr Roberts said: “High Rollers Trucking was then directed by the Customs Department to pay the difference and penalties of some $14,000 and $5,000, totalling $19,000 in fines.
“However the fines were paid by SuperWash.... There is clearly a pattern of dishonest behaviour on the part of Mr D’Aguilar that would lead any logical thinking person to conclude that he is indeed a serial tax dodger.
“I call on the Bahamas Customs Department and the Ministry of Finance to conduct a review of all of the invoices submitted by companies owned by Dionisio D’Aguilar. As the old saying goes, once may be excused but twice is a habit.”
Mr D’Aguilar declined to respond directly to Mr Roberts’s claims, other than to say: “This attempt to slander me is, once again, lies, half truths and utter distortion.
“It is very, very clear that the PLP are becoming more and more desperate as Election Day approaches and, not surprisingly, Bradley Roberts and the PLP has sunk to the politics of personal destruction in an attempt to hide their failed corruption.”
In an e-mailed reply to Tribune Business, he added: “There are 10 days of campaigning left and I am going to spend the remainder of the campaign on the ground in Freetown talking about how we are going to better our country…..not sling mud with the PLP.”
Mr D’Aguilar last week blamed another, unnamed unscrupulous broker for submitting another false entry on Superwash’s behalf, which led to more fines and penalties as a result of under-invoicing.
Mr Roberts, though, cast doubt on the FNM Freetown candidate’s explanation, asking whether Superwash and Mr D’Aguilar had taken legal action against the unnamed broker.
The PLP chairman also alleged that the invoices in question were created “in-house at Superwash, and not by a broker as claimed by Dionisio D’Aguilar”.
Mr Roberts added that “no broker’s name appears on the Custom’s Duty Entry form”. Tribune Business understands that while the invoices were created in-house, the broker filled out the entry and signed it when it was submitted to Customs.