But Owe Millions In Taxes
8 days ago, we told you about the dramatic decision that the Court of Appeal made when it reversed Belize's first money laundering conviction and acquitted the Coye Family. More than that, the Court ordered that the Government of the Belize had 60 days to return the 1.557 million dollars in cash that police found at their house on New Year's Eve 2008.
That's a complete reversal in fortune for the Coye Family which has lost their name, their reputation, their business, and their cash flow – so much so that they had to struggle to find the money to bury Michael Coye when he passed away a few days after being released on bail.
But that 1.557 million dollars is not the entire sum of the Coye family's financial assets. In fact, it's only a part of the 6.5 million dollars total which was frozen by the FIU because they were under suspicion of being ill-gotten gains from money laundering.
Well, now that Melonie Coye, the Late Michael Coye and their company, Money Exchange International, have all been cleared of the Money Laundering conviction, the family and their attorney believed that they would be able to get the state to unfreeze those monies.
But, not so fast…that's what the Income Tax Department says. They've prepared 3 different income tax assessment which says that the estate of Michael Coye and Melonie Coye's company, Money Exchange International, owes them a total of 3.2126 million dollars in back taxes.
Arthur Saldivar, the attorney for the Coye Family didn't find out about this tax assessment until he approached the new director of the FIU, Eric Eusey, who is the former Commissioner of Income Tax. He was served with these 3 statements which are dated March 5, 2014, the day after Coyes' acquittal in the Appeal Court.
Today, Saldivar sat down with 7News and explained that the assessment is unfair and arbitrary to a family that has already gone through enough with this case:
Arthur Saldivar - Attorney for the Coye Family
"The Coye family was never served with this assessment. Under the law, Section 58 of the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Commissioner can make a garnishment of monies for debt owed through a third party or to a third party. In this particular case, it was the FIU that received the letter. Now, it is still unclear: what is the measure of assessment used to come up with the figure that Income Tax has come up with? But, certainly, in any reasonable contemplation, 3.212 million dollars is excessive. Where you have no basis for an assessment, there can be no other description to define what has taken place other than arbitrary, both of which does not reconcile with our system of law, and both of which offends basic fairness."
"However, in fact, while 3.2 million dollars sounds like a lot, if it is a part of a substantial, global figure, which in this case, everything is at 6.5 million dollars, it is not so outlandish."
"It certainly would be if we contemplate that we have a tax rate of 50% or 75%. Where in the world would tax rates be set so high? The only scenario, or the only thing that I can come up with to justify that kind of thing - and not even a justification, but just to explain it - would be where you're using the tax system as a means to punish a person. So, the courts have found the accused persons in this matter not guilty, but the tax man is making a punitive judgement."
"Suppose the prosecutors, the authorities, know instinctively, institutionally that, man, these monies are the product of money laundering, and it is in fact in the public interest to frustrate and deny these people these monies as long as possible because really, these monies were ill-gotten as the product of fraudulent transactions."
"Well then, why would we have courts, Jules? If it is for a prosecutor, on whatever belief they have to punish a person, there will be no need for courts, and no need for judges to adjudicate cases. In this particular case, the issues were fully ventilated. It was shown without the shadow of a doubt that there is no basis upon which any of the monies that were found at 12 Johnson Street could have been the proceeds of crime."
7News contacted the Office of the FIU for comments on this issue this afternoon, but we were told that Eric Eusey was not in office. We've requested a call back, but up until news time, he hadn't responded to our requests.
Saldivar told us that in relation to the 1.557 million dollars that the Appeal Court has been ordered to the give back to the Coye Family, it is expected that that money will be returned to the family closer to the 60 day deadline, which is now 52 days away. He also told us that he has prepared applications to show to the relevant authorities that the Coye's do not owe Income Tax.