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Sun sets for popular car dealer

…as vehicles are auctioned to recover money owed

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

Right Way Auto (Pty) Ltd liquidator, Qhalehang Letsika, has auctioned over 80 vehicles from the second-hand car-dealer whose management was said to owe the LRA thousands of maloti in tax.
Advocate Letsika told the Sunday Express all the cars on auction last Saturday were sold, adding the turn-up of buyers at the popular dealer was overwhelming.
“The auction went well. We were expecting between 300 and 400 people but the demand was so high the figure was double,” he said.
“We had to stop the registration for security purposes. We feared that there would be too much money on the premises.”
However, Advocate Letsika did not reveal how much money was collected from the auction.
The funds are meant to settle the balance that the automobile company owes in tax to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA).

The LRA is currently inspecting second-hand car-businesses which have sprouted around the city over recent months, to check if they are complying with the country’s tax regulations.
Among those taken to court by the LRA were three Pakistanis — Mohammad Suliman, Mohammad Faisal, Ahsan Ul Haq — who were accused of failing to honour their tax-obligation since the establishment of their vehicle import/sales company, Malik Auto Net (Pty) Ltd, in December 2008.

The Maseru Magistrate’s Court in February found the Pakistanis guilty of tax-evasion amounting to M3 million.
However, Faisal was later exonerated after the court ruled he could not have known of the crime as he is based in Japan, where the company imports its vehicles.
The court heard how on 5 December 2013, LRA officials on a routine inspection of businesses, visited Malik Auto Net Pty) Ltd in Maseru, and subsequently discovered the car-dealership owed M3 million in tax.

In his ruling, Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Murenzi said economic crimes continue to escalate in Lesotho, hence the need to impose deterrent sentences on all perpetrators.
“Crimes such as tax-evasion rob the country of much-needed development because very little revenue is collected by government, as a result,” said Mr Murenzi.
“However, in this case, the accused were always cooperating with the authorities and intended to meet their tax-obligation and also continue business operations in Lesotho. This is why they deserve lenient sentences.
“But I trust this experience will teach the accused to comply with their tax-obligation in the future.”

The magistrate then sentenced Ul Haq and Suliman to six years in prison each, with an option to pay a M12 000 fine.
Half of the sentence was suspended on condition the men did not commit a similar offence over the next three years.
The magistrate also requested the company to pay the M36 000 due to the LRA, which Faisal agreed to settle the following day.
Meanwhile, the LRA sweep and auction have stirred mixed feelings among car-dealers operating around Maseru.

A dealer who runs his business along the Main South road told the Sunday Express last week that he strongly suspects their business has become a target just because of their origins. He said many of the dealers were of Asian origins.
“I suspect that the most attention is on us just because we are of Asian origins. We know there is a saying that our people are crooks. We have been victimised by the authorities, even those of us who are doing fair business,” he said.
“We are not the first people to import used Japanese cars. So many Basotho have been in the business, even though at a small scale, but they have not drawn this much attention from the authorities.”
The man, who refused to give his name and that of his company, further said he had heard that some of his colleagues were contemplating moving to countries such as Botswana and Mozambique.

However, other dealers who spoke to the Sunday Express said the LRA should be left to do their job and make those who cheat, pay for their sins.
A businessman who only identified himself as Mohammad and prohibited the use of his company name, said the LRA raids were going to help promote fair competition.
“It is unfair that some of us pay full amounts of tax while others cheat, yet in the end, we sell the same cars at the same prices. It is not fair business when others gain more at the expense of our sincerity,” he said.

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