Houston Estates has taken the Mayor and City Council(M&CC) to Court over accusations of tax fraud leveled against the proprietors of the estate.
The lawsuit is welcomed by City Mayor Ubraj Narine who last December
publically accused the estates owned by the Vieiras of selling lands in
Houston, East Bank Demerara area for billions of dollars without
remitting to the Council its rightful taxes.
Mayor Narine said that the article caused him to pull Council‘s records on Houston Estates.
The Mayor said that to his surprise, the Houston Estates which is owned the popular Vieira family has not been paying its rightful rates.
“This is not a mere act of deception; it is downright fraud. The issue which most concerned me is compliance and of the payment on land taxes. What, we found is that the Estate was using one account number for compliance from Council but selling multiple properties.
“This is despite the fact that Houston Estates is subdivided in various sections. It is a large section of land to be sold. There is Houston, Rome North, South and so forth,” Narine added
However, the representatives of the estate had denied all accusations claiming instead that the Council had agreed to waive the taxes in exchange for estate cleaning and desilting the canals at Houston and surrounding areas.
The estate had promised to sue the council. In the action filed last week, Houston Estates are asking the Court to quash the unilateral imposition of taxes by the Council. According to the lawsuit, the estate wants the Court to quash the decision by the Council as contained inter alia in its General Rate Demand Notices 2020 to the Applicant to charge against the Applicant in respect of its Properties situate at South Half Plantation Houston and North and South Halves Plantation Rome (‘the Properties’) rates as set out in the said Notices totaling $517,112,222.
The group wants a declaration that the decision taken by the Council in 2005 to increase rates payable on the Properties from 40% their assessed value to 400% that value is unreasonable, and ultra vires the power of the Council under the provisions of the Municipal and District Councils Act, Cap. 28:01.
They want the decision deamed “void and set aside.”
Further, the estate is asking for a declaration that the respondent (M&CC) is and was at all material times bound by the representation contained in its letter of 16th December, 2005 that the applicant (Houston Estates) should pay and that it would accept rates in respect of the Disputed Properties calculated at forty percent, and that the decision by the respondent to resile from that letter and retracting that representation is unlawful, void, and ultra vires the power of the respondent under the Act.
The group also wants an Order quashing or setting aside that decision.