Thursday, February 20, 2020

Dada, ex ministers weigh in on BURS, car dealerships war

Car dealership mogul and Botswana Democratic Party BDP) Treasurer Satar Dada has weighed in on the ongoing tug of war between the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and second hand motor vehicle dealerships.

In an interesting twist, Dada, whose Motor Centre Botswana ‘local’ car dealership business is believed to have suffered the most due to the influx of the mostly Japanese, Singapore second hand motor vehicle imports, has reportedly made several unsuccessful attempts to rescue the situation in favour of the dealerships.

The wealthy businessman has allegedly made several attempts to influence senior government officials and ministers to mediate between the BURS and the second hand import dealerships.

Dada confirmed in an interview with Sunday Standard that he has made efforts to intervene. “Yes we have made efforts to establish what the real problem is. We have tried to advice the dealerships to regulate themselves and run professionally,” Dada said. “They have to start paying their taxes.”

Sunday Standard could not establish if the business tycoon or any of his relatives has ventured into the very lucrative second hand motor vehicle industry. Following his call for the import second hand vehicles to be banned, then Minister of Transport Kitso Mokaila implied he had been accused of having been sponsored by Dada.

“When I made these suggestions while I was still Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism I was accused of having been bought by motor businessman, Satar Dada, but this time around I’m positive I will be successful,” Mokaila was quoted in the media some years back.

Two other former ministers (known to this publication) are said to have made efforts to intervene with the aim of getting the BURS to loosen its grip on the dealers.

BURS General Manager for Investigations, Compliance, and Enforcement Kaone Molapo has accused the dealerships of various forms of crimes including forgery, tax evasion, money laundering and others. He said they have recently discovered some of the dealers forge Namibian Registration Books (Blue Book) and license plates.

The dealerships have also largely been accused by the BURS of undervaluing the costs vehicles.

“Results from risk analysis have shown that some motor dealerships have been undervaluing the costs of the motor vehicles they have on sale. By undervaluing these cars the BURS is finding it difficult to collect the required and the correct tax and therefore Botswana loses on valuable Customs revenue.”

The taxman said they have taken measures to ensure compliance and adherence to the Customs Act. “BURS has decided to seize or detain these motor vehicles pending further investigations of their actual value,” BURS said in a statement.

The second hand motor vehicle businesses, mostly owned by Nigerians, Sri Lankans, and other foreign nationalities, have been seen as a haven of especially money laundering activities and drug dealing.

BURS officials have closed down some of the dealerships especially in Mogoditshane. In 2017 the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) raised concerns about the vulnerability of the second hand motor vehicle importation business to abuse for trafficking of drugs and other contraband forbidden in Botswana at the time when the cars are being brought into Botswana. 

The report said although relevant authorities were aware of the risks associated with the sector, no action had yet been taken to determine the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing threats posed by the business.

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