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Chaudhry has right to privacy: Tikolevu

Monday, February 25, 2008

IT is the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority's responsibility to deal with taxation issues and not the responsibility of The Fiji Times or any other media organisation, says FIRCA chief executive officer Jitoko Tikolevu.

In FIRCA's response to The Fiji Times story identifying interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry as the interim minister alleged to have not paid his taxes on time, Mr Tikolevu said the right to privacy over tax affairs that the minister enjoyed was not merely an "apparent" right but a real one.

He said the right to privacy was vested in all taxpayers in the public interest.

Mr Tikolevu said secrecy of individual tax affairs was in all civilised countries the cornerstone of the tax system, without which tax authorities could not carry out their duties in the public interest.

"Simply for The Fiji Times to be in possession of documents referred to, delivered to it by those violating the secrecy laws under which FIRCA functions, is itself a serious criminal offence," he said.

"The publication by The Fiji Times of such documents compounds this criminal offence."

Mr Tikolevu said reports by The Fiji Times lacked the details of examination of the documents, the clarifications and explanations put forward in regard to them and details of FIRCA's analysis of such clarifications and explanations.

He said the two former FIRCA employees, Lepani Rabo and Joseva Leano, were now being investigated for possible breaches of the secrecy provisions under Section 4 of the Income Tax Act.

Mr Tikolevu said FIRCA believed the media hype created over the issue was politically motivated and to discredit the authority.

"As stated earlier FIRCA will not be involved in any political debate but will always uphold the integrity of the Income Tax Act, and will not publicly discuss taxpayers' tax affairs," he said.

Related stories:

Previously (Sunday, 25 February):

Saturday, 24 February:





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