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Gibson Threatens To Expose FNM Tax-Dodgers

Labour and National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson yesterday threatened to disclose the names of past and present Opposition Members of Parliament who, at one time or another, were delinquent in paying their taxes amid lingering questions of the fate of a top government official now under fire after admitting that he dodged property taxes for nearly a decade.

Recently, senior Ministry of Finance official and leading Christie Administration pitchperson on the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT) Ishmael Lightbourne, admitted that he had not paid the property taxes on his upscale western New Providence beachfront home for almost 10 years.

This revelation has stirred up controversy from many who oppose the soon-to-be imposed VAT and now question the government’s credibility.

But Mr. Gibson who cautioned against making the issue with Mr. Lightbourne a political one, threatened to expose Free National Movement (FNM) and other opposition public officials who have fallen behind in meeting their financial obligations.

“When you look historically at the persons in high positions currently and formally here in The Bahamas who never paid their real property taxes…to me, it is a concern because you should always pay your taxes particularly when you are in government,” he said. “I think it is hypocritical.

“When I finish disclosing the details of all of the persons and I am not going to limit it to persons who are serving now, I’m going to expand it to persons who previously served and didn’t pay their real property taxes and who subsequently ran ahead and caught some of the amnesty periods that we would have offered and show the hypocrisy of this.”

Mr. Gibson, who spoke to reporters ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting, admitted that he too had been delinquent with paying his property taxes for a period but insisted that to date, he is current.

The minister did not give a timeframe for when he will disclose the names of those delinquent officials but he assured that the information will be shared with the public.

“When I have completed my research I will disclose the information and let the chips fall where they may and let the public decide who’s being a hypocrite,” the minister said.

While Mr. Gibson appears willing to go to battle with his political rivals over the issue involving Mr. Lightbourne, several of his Cabinet colleagues instead reminded that it is the obligation of all Bahamians to ensure that their financial obligations are current.

“Our country needs all the revenue it can get and whatever means available to the government to ensure that the Bahamian people pay their fair share they should do that,” Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister V. Alfred Gray said. “Bahamian people, including me, do not like to pay taxes. If I had a chance to avoid paying taxes then I would not pay any taxes, but

I am a believer in obeying the law.”

“Every Bahamian has an obligation to pay their taxes – it doesn’t matter whether they are a public official or not and it’s as simple as that,” Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder added.

Meanwhile, FNM Chairman Darron Cash fired back at Mr. Gibson’s comments late Tuesday.

Mr. Cash said in a statement that Mr. Gibson’s remarks further demonstrate the politics of vindictiveness and spite associated with the Christie Administration.

“[Tuesday’s] announcement from Minister Shane Gibson was simple –open your mouth and say anything against me that I do not like and I will use my high office to expose you and all of your sins,” Mr. Cash said.

“The FNM would not be surprised as to who owes taxes,” he continued. “The fact that FNMs might owe taxes is not enough to circumvent a meaningful debate about the issue. The fact that people of prominence owe taxes is a clear indication of what might be wrong with the current system. Being broke is not a sin. This administration’s unwillingness to fix a broken system is.

Ishmael Lightbourne remains in his position and has stated that he has no intentions of resigning.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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