Crime & Punishment of 2014-05-13

Top Industries tax evasion case: Driver testifies

A driver in the case involving two Indian businessmen accused of evading tax after smuggling a total of Ghc874,000.00 worth of Isopropyl Alcohol from the Free zone enclaves has appeared before an Accra circuit court.
Samuel Acheampong, who mounted the witness box, told the court that he drives a Cargo Benz with registration number A6561Y and resides in Kumasi.
Led in evidence by Prosecuting Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Abraham A. Annor, Samuel told the court that he knows the first accused person Anil Lakhiani, saying he first met him while loading his car.
He said Anil approached him and asked him to pick some items from Tema to circle.
Samuel said after parking the items, he set off, but on his way, he was stopped by the police and when he was interrogated, he confessed to them that the car was filled with alcohol.
According to the witness, the police demanded from him the weighing bill, which he produced.
Anil Lakhiani and Sundeep Sonu Dhawan who are facing two counts of smuggling 460 drums of isopropyl alcohol have pleaded not guilty.
The court presided over by Mr. Francis Obiri remanded them into police custody to reappear on May 27, despite bail applications put in by their counsels at the last adjourned date.
DSP Annor said Lakhiani is the Managing Director of Top Industries, a company registered as free zone Company under the free zones Act, 1995, Act 504 in the Free zone Enclave near Tema Industrial Area.
According to the prosecution, Dhawan is also the Managing Director of XLNC Company Limited, a company which is engaged in the importation and sale of alcohol.
Lakhiani is engaged in the manufacturing of poly-sacks and rubber products.
Prosecution said for their production, they also require very limited quantities of substances to be used in diluting paint to print various descriptions on the poly sacks.
DSP Annor contended for this purpose, Lakhiani was allowed to import quantities of Isopropyl alcohol as raw materials for printing purposes only.
Under the Free Zones Act, prosecution said raw materials imported for manufacturing purposes by companies registered and operating in the enclave were cleared at the port without import duties.
Prosecution said, however, intelligence gathered over the period revealed that volumes of alcohol imported by Lakhiani were high and suspicious.
DSP Annor said for 2013, Lakhiani imported 6,164 drums of the alcohol in 12 consignments and cleared them without paying any duties.
According to DSP Annor, the consignment were smuggled out of the free zone enclave and sold on the local market.
For example, prosecution said Lakhiani for this year alone, from January to March, made two imports of 1,320 drums of alcohol and engaged the services of Dhawan to sell same on the open market.
Prosecution said Dhawan who owns a warehouse at South Industrial Area, kept the stock there, where he sold them to the public.
DSP Annor told the court that in the last week of March this year, Lakhiani sold 500 drums of alcohol to Dhawan. Out of the 500 drums, 400 drums were smuggled in the night to Dhawan’s warehouse.
However, on April 2, prosecution said while conveying another 60 drums of alcohol in the night, an intelligence team from the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority arrested the transporter.
The team intercepted 460 drums of alcohol while another 90 drums were found in Dhawan’s warehouse.
Lakhiani confessed to the crime saying his company had gone low on production and he needed to sell the alcohol to make money. Dhawan also admitted the offence.
Source: GNA
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