Venezuelan Diplomat’s car still in GRA custody

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More than a week after seizing the car of a Venezuelan Diplomat, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has made it clear that Luz León Guillén has to pay $2.4M in prorated taxes and that she must have it privately registered.

News Room first reported on October 28, 2018 that Luz, who worked as a First Secretary and a Counselor at the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana for some three years, had her 2003 Land Rover bearing the diplomatic plates, confiscated by the Enforcement Unit of the GRA while she was at the Georgetown Public Hospital on October 25.

The GRA, in its Saturday night statement, explained that the tax entity received correspondence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with an attached letter from the Venezuelan Embassy, stating that the tour of the Diplomat ended in November 2017, and requested that the diplomatic licence plate DPL-6-04 registered to the Venezuelan Embassy be withdrawn and be put out of circulation.

According to GRA, its officers executed their duties in accordance with the provisions of Article 34 and Article 39 of the Privileges and Immunities (Diplomatic Consular and International Organisations) Act, Chapter 18:01.

“At no time was the former First secretary treated with disrespect,” GRA claimed.

The statement further noted that when the matter was brought to the attention of the Commissioner-General of the GRA, Godfrey Statia, discretion was exercised to allow for the vehicle to be utilized by the Diplomat, provided that she takes the necessary steps to have it registered with an ordinary registration number and any outstanding pro-rated Excise tax paid on or before December 1, 2018, (the date of her purported return ticket)  should the motor vehicle be sold or remain in the jurisdiction after that date.

GRA also noted that they offered Luz to export the vehicle where no taxes will be paid but she did not take up the offer to date.

However, when contacted by News Room on Saturday night, Luz explained that GRA made her one offer – that she must pay the $2.4M if she wants her vehicle released before she leaves the country on December 1, 2018.

“I am covered by the Vienna Convention and I do not have money to export the car to another country. I wish to return my vehicle and pay what corresponds to me to pay taxes that are only the taxes from December 1 to December 15 (when the car will be 3 years old here),” Luz told News Room.

Luz ceased working at the Embassy in November 2017 and has been waiting on her country to send her ticket back home; she only received that ticket on October 17.

But she told News Room that she remains in the employ of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Venezuela and even though the vehicle belongs to her, she is authorized to use the diplomatic plates and remains in Guyana under diplomatic status, granted by Article 39.2 of the Vienna Convention.

Luz, who is an Attorney-at-law, Specialist in Negotiation and Resolution of Conflicts, Master in International Studies and Diplomatic Relations, believes that her Human Rights are being trampled on.

Since leaving her job at the Venezuelan Embassy, Luz said she was forced to work as a translator for Cubans who have appointments at the US Embassy in Georgetown given the fact that the Government of Venezuela has not been paying her salary regularly.

See full statement below:

The GRA wishes to respond to the Newsroom article of October 28, 2018 under the subject of “GRA seizes vehicle of Venezuelan Diplomat”, on the grounds that she owes approximately 2.4M in taxes, and to several telephone requests from new agencies seeking explanations as to the basis of the tax due.

On Thursday, October 25, 2018,the GRA received a correspondence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with an attached letter from the Venezuelan Embassy,stating that the tour of Mrs. Luz Anandha Isaray Leon Guillen,former First Secretary of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, ended in November 2017, and requesting that the diplomatic licence plate DPL-6-04 registered to the Venezuelan Embassy be withdrawn and be put out of circulation.

Acting thereon, theLaw Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID)of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) intercepted the motor vehicle bearing the said diplomatic plate and advised the said former first Secretary that in accordance with the provisions of Article 34 and Article 39 of the Privileges and Immunities (Diplomatic Consular and International Organisations) Act, Chapter 18:01 respectively, that prorated taxes of 2.4M must be paid and the vehicle privately registered or until then, the vehicle cannot be driven under the said withdrawn diplomatic plate.

At no time was the former First secretary treated with disrespect. Matter of fact, when the matter was brought to the attention of the Commissioner General, discretion was exercised to allowfor the motor vehicle to be utilized by her provided that she takes the necessary steps to have same registered with an ordinary registration number and anyoutstanding pro-rated Excise tax paid on or before December 1, 2018, (the date of her purported return ticket)  should the motor vehicle be sold or remain in the jurisdiction after that date. In the alternative, no tax will be payable should the vehicle be exported. The Guyana Revenue Authority has advised her of the said offer which to date she has failed to take up.

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