Three auditors, who extorted money from the management of TV3 Limited, to fraudulently evade tax worth several millions of cedis were on Thursday sentenced to five years imprisonment each by the Financial Court (High Court Division).

They are Joseph Agyei, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Joseph John Tei Bilson, Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), on secondment to the Large Taxpayer Unit to audit TV3’s taxes from 1997 to 2003. The third, Eric Duncan, is an auditor of P.O. Andah and Associates, a tax consulting firm in Accra.

They were jailed after the court presided over by Mr Justice Bright Mensah had found them guilty for conspiracy, corruption by public officer, influencing a public officer and attempting to cause financial loss to the State.

It noted that the prosecution after calling six witnesses was able to establish a case and guilt of the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt.

The accused persons after opening their defence, did not call witnesses. According to the court if their actions were not disclosed, the state would have lost about GH¢400,000, which could have been used to develop the country.

It ordered the Registrar of the court to ensure monies offered by the management of TV3 as bribe should be returned to them. The court said although, Agyei and Bilson registered their displeasure over bribe money, however, they collected GH¢4,000 each from Duncan and paid them into their respective bank accounts.

It said while Agyei stated “he got angry on receipt of the money, informed a policeman at post with his bank of the money after paying them into his account”, the court wondered why he (Agyei) did not inform, the bank manager or lodge complaint with a police station rather a policeman at post at the bank.

In the case of Bilson, the court said he (Bilson) said he found the money as “unusual” yet collected it. With regard to Duncan, the court said it was evident that he collected the money, took the first tranche of GH¢10,000 out of which he gave GH¢8,000 to Agyei and Bilson. The court said when Duncan had taken the second tranche of GH¢20,000 at the premises of TV3 he was accosted by the Police.

It expressed disappointment about the refusal of the defence to file addresses. Mr Agyei Lartey, a lawyer who acted as a friend of the court pleaded for mitigation, saying, the accused persons had shown remorse for their action. He told the court that if they were given stiffer punishment it would bring untold hardships on their families. Mrs Yvonne Atakorah-Oboubisah, a Principal State Attorney reminded the court of the maximum sentence of 25 years, adding sentencing them was at the discretion of the court.

The prosecution’s case was that in 2005, Agyei and Bilson were assigned to audit TV3 from 1997 to 2003. During the auditing, the two issued a draft report indicating that management of TV3 owed 12.1 billion old cedis (GH¢1.2 million cedis), however, the management objected saying the figure was high and engaged the tax consulting firm, which appointed Duncan to assist to re-audit the taxes.

Later Agyei and Bilson approached management of TV3 that they could reduce their tax if they were offered GH¢50,000. Prosecution said management of TV3 feigned interest and agreed to pay the money in three tranches, Duncan therefore collected the money from management of TV3 but gave GH¢8,000 to Agyei and Bilson after which their tax obligation was reduced to 4.3 billion old cedis( GH¢430,000).

Duncan was, however, arrested by the Police when management of TV3 handed over the second tranche of GH¢20,000 to him and the accomplices who were then waiting at a spot in Zongo Junction where Agyei was repairing his vehicle.

Source: GNA