Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has failed to stop a judicial review on the decision to arrest the valuer of former president late Bingu wa Mutharika’s property, Yeremiah Chihana for tax evasion .
Chihana, who is the owner of YMW Property Investment Company, was arrested June 19, 2015 on suspicion of tax evasion offences.
On Tuesday, MRA went to court and lodged an application before Judge John Chirwa to vacate the order of stay and leave for judicial review which he had granted on the case.
MRA argued that Chihana has not disputed that he committed offences under the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, Taxation Act and Customs and Excise Act.
“There is no serious question to be tried by court at the substantive judicial review as MRA clearly acted reasonably within its lawful mandate. MRA is of the firm view that its conduct cannot, therefore, be questioned as it is sanctioned by the tax laws of the land,” the tax body submitted their arguments before court.
Chihana is suspected of not remitting Value Added Tax (VAT) to MRA since 2009.
He is also suspected to have smuggled several motor vehicles into the country without paying applicable customs duties. The estimated amount of taxes and duties is at K1.34 billion.
Lawyer Zwelithini Chipembere, who is among a legal team of Chihana, disagreed with MRA saying are many issues surrounding the case that necessitated the judicial review.
“For example the vehicles MRA is talking about (Mercedes Benz registration RFZ 679 GP and Nissan Patrol registration CK 4575) were both locally and were ready to prove it,” said Chipembere .
Lusungu Gondwe a lawyer also representing Chihana, accused MRA of “court shopping” by obtaining a search warrant at Resident Magistrate’s Court in Blantyre, but got a warrant of arrest at the Resident Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe, yet the case is the same.
Gondwe said he believed that MRA acted in that manner to suppress some material facts .
He argued that if MRA had seized the computers from Chihana, they should be deposited with the court and that after the arrest and Chihana should be been brought before court to be formally charged.
“None of these happened as the computers were kept at it’s (MRA ) offices while Chihana was locked at Lilongwe police station, “Gondwe s aid on his affidavit .
The property evaluator and entrepreneur, who also owns Vikawu Trust, Steers Auctioneers and Estate Agency, New Chikale beach, YMW International Transport/Bus Services Limited, Limex Limited, Prudential Consultants and Dutch contractors, had claimed his arrests was political motivated and a vendetta after he valued Bingu’s billions.
The figure raised eyebrows about how late Mutharika, who declared around K50 million at the start of his presidential term in 2004,could have accumulated so much wealth within eight years
The late president’s family disputes the figure, saying it is exaggerated .
And MRA quashed assertions that the case is politically inspired, saying the body is empowered by the law to deal with tax issues and that Chihana was not specific in his claims.
Justice Chirwa ruled the court should proceed with judicial review on the matter and set August 18 2015 as the date for the case.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :