MASERU — The Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) yesterday seized businessman Osman Moosa’s property after he failed to pay the tax he evaded for years.
The Lesotho Times can reveal that LRA officers took household property from Moosa’s house in Lower Thetsane. They also attached his office property from Selkol 1983 (Pty) Ltd, a furniture manufacturing company in Maseru West Industrial Area. From his house the officers attached two expensive vehicles, a Mercedes Benz and a Ford Ranger truck.
The LRA officers arrived at Moosa’s house at around 7am and proceeded to cordon off the two cars parked outside his garage. By around 6:30pm some of Moosa’s property was still being loaded onto a truck. Among the property attached were fridges, chairs and tables. At Selkol 1983 (Pty) Ltd the LRA is said to have attached office and manufacturing equipment but they had not moved the property by late last night. This paper understands that the LRA was yesterday considering locking some of Selkol 1983 (Pty)’s offices for the next few days to keep the property.
Moosa could not be reached for comment yesterday as his phone was unavailable. But is it understood that when the LRA officers arrived at his house Moosa desperately tried to stop them by trying to negotiate. Moosa, who is the chairman of the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho, was convicted on 51 counts of fraud and tax evasion in August 2011. He was convicted together with his son, Shameen Moosa, and their company Selkol 1983 (Pty) Ltd.
Selkol is a member of Moosa’s Group of Companies that includes Building World (Pty) Ltd, Moosa Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Moosa’s Bargain and City Moosa Cash & Carry. High Court judge Justice ’Maseforo Mahase sentenced Moosa to six years imprisonment or a fine of M500 000. Osman was also sentenced to a further six years which was suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted of any crime involving taxation or contravention of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act. Apart from a stake in Frasers, a retail chain in Lesotho, Moosa also owns a number of properties in Maseru.
Shameen was sentenced to three years for 90 counts of tax evasion but was given an option to pay a M100 000 fine. Selkol 1983 has been ordered to pay a fine of M1.5 million for 57 counts of fraud. The company will also pay M4 million in taxes it owes the LRA. Moosa, Selkol and Shameen were facing a total of 316 charges related to fraud and tax evasion. Their conviction followed a plea bargaining between Moosa’s lawyer SC Guido Penzhorn and the crown counsel, SC Barry Roux.
The judge said Selkol 1983 should break the M4 million payment to the LRA in four instalments of M1 million each. She ordered that the first instalment should be paid by November 30, 2011 while the second M1 million should reach the LRA by December 31.
The third and fourth instalments would be paid in January and February 2012. The LRA moved to attach the property because Moosa has failed to repay the tax as ordered by the court. The indictment filed in the High Court in 2011 showed that Moosa and Shameen operated two sets of accounts to avoid paying tax.
According to court papers the Moosas, who are directors of Selkol (Pty) which makes furniture and supplies major retail shops countrywide, operated two sets of accounts they used to dodge tax between 1997 and 2006. The crown however centred its charges on the period between 2003 and 2006. The Moosas were charged with failing to disclose Selkol’s sales amounting to M10.9 million. They are also said to have overstated Selkol’s purchases by M5.2 million and in the process failed to pay M1.6 million in tax.
The crown said they failed to declare M1.2 million of Selkol’s sales for the period between April and June of 2003. Selkol was supposed to have paid 10 percent of sales tax to the LRA as well as income tax at 15 percent but the directors did not declare the correct sales figures, the crown said. From July 2003 to August 2006 the two did not disclose the company’s M9.7 million worth of sales out of which M1.3 million was supposed to be VAT. Osman has been the Selkol director since 1983 while Shameen joined him on the board in 2000.
One set of accounts was on an accounting software programme called UltiSales which was kept in a directory ledger called POS, according to the indictment.
The POS ledger contained Selkol’s sales as part of its business in Lesotho from which the company earned gross profit and taxable income. The gross income from the sales captured on the POS ledger was shown in the income tax returns of the company to the LRA for tax assessment periods between 1997 and 2006, court papers said. Things seemed to go well until the LRA investigators raided Moosa’s home and discovered the second set of accounts which was captured on a memory stick and saved on a Selkol computer server in a directory called NAOL.
Further investigations revealed NAOL was a code name for LOAN and the directory contained Selkol’s sales that were not captured in the POS ledger. Investigators also found Selkol’s receipt book at Moosa’s home which showed the company’s sales for the period of November 2005 to April 2007. The two directors were accused of manipulating the amount of stock purchased by Selkol in the financial records in order to reduce the amount of income tax payable.
It was the NAOL memory stick and the receipt book that revealed that the Moosas had not declared the company’s sales worth M10.9 million.