Thursday, April 22, 2021

Minister Seretse denies evasion of tax in land deal

The Minister of Trade and Industry Vincent Seretse has denied allegations that he may have evaded paying tax to the Botswana Government as a majority shareholder of a company called Renaissance Property Holdings (PTY) ltd. The company whose directors also include the Minister’s wife Michelle Seretse bought a piece of land from Tlhokomelo ya Bagodi in 2010 for P1┬á761┬á660 . Seretse is the Chairman of board of trustees of the Trust.

Sunday Standard also sought to establish who could have suggested the sale price (P1 761 660) of the piece of land in question and whether there was a deliberate undervaluation calculated to deprive the Botswana Government the actual transfer duty.

Responding to Sunday Standard questions, Seretse through his attorney, Terence Dambe, a Managing Partner at MINCHIN and KELLY (Botswana) law firm said the actual size of the plot is 3 9148 hectares. He added that “the property was purchased from the Botswana Government by the Trust in 1997.

“The property was sold by the Trust to Renaissance Property Holdings (Propriety) Limited for the sum of P1┬á761┬á660. There is no truth to the allegation that the property was sold to “Theodore” for P10 million or any other amount for that matter,’ said Dambe.

┬áAllegations are that initially the piece of land was to be sold to a company called ‘Theodore’ for more than P10 million before it was sold to Renaissance Property Holdings (Propriety) Limited.

Dambe said “considering that the property was purchased as a civic and community plot for the sum of P70┬á446 400; the property was then sold by the Trust for an amount which was substantially more than it was purchased. It is evident that there was no intention to undervalue the property in question.”

Dambe further explained that the purchase price was fully declared to the Registrar of Deeds upon transfer, the latter being empowered to request a valuation if he or she deems it necessary. Dambe further stated that the land was sold by way of an agreement between two legal entities with no valuation required and therefore no valuation was undertaken.

According to Registrar of Deeds Act, if “it appears to the Registrar of Deeds that the price or purchase of property is considerably less than its just value and fair value, and in case the Registrar and the purchaser representing the fair value thereof, it shall be competent for the Registrar of Deeds to cause a valuation of the said property to be made …”

It has also emerged that Seretse is a shareholder and Director in a company called Distant Horizons (PTY) LTD. The company is the property developer for the same piece of land.

Although the town houses were selling at a market rate of P952 260 at the time, they were allegedly sold for P500 000 and by so doing the townhouses which were contracted on the land in question were undervalued (at below cost) and the suggestion is that this was done to avoid the full VAT on each house.

Dambe explained that “as a director and shareholder of Distance Horizons, our client advises that as far as he is aware no attempt was made to avoid VAT and all proceeds of the sale of the properties by the company have been duly declared to Botswana Unified Revue Service (BURS).

Some of the townhouses or units namely, 5068, 5069, 5070, 5071have been registered under Galaeo Pty Ltd, another company that Seretse is also a shareholder.

“Our client can confirm that the company Galaleo (Pty) Ltd does own the units referred to in your question and that he is a shareholder and Director of the said company,” said Dambe.

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