In what some PLPs yesterday dubbed a "bombshell", Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts charged that Free National Movement (FNM) Freetown candidate, businessman Dionisio D'Aguilar, knowingly and fraudulently altered the original invoices issued by Whirlpool Corporation on a shipment of 27 commercial washing machines.
D'Aguilar owns Superwash Limited. On January 29, 2014, the company admitted that it submitted a false declaration and paid a $15,000 fine.
D'Aguilar said in a statement yesterday that the company was the victim of fraud by an unscrupulous broker and the loss was significant.
Roberts released a statement on the matter, attaching a series of customs documents.
He said, "While waging war against and criticizing the PLP government on collecting taxes, D'Aguilar was caught red handed in 2013 falsifying invoices #'s 8028636111, 8028636112 and 8028662205, dated 20th and 21st November 2013 from the Whirlpool Corporation in Benton Harbour, MI."
Roberts added: "The attached pieces of evidence show that Mr. D'Aguilar knowingly and fraudulently altered the original invoices duly issued by the Whirlpool Corporation on a shipment of 27 Commercial Washing Machines.
"The alterations included freight costs, customs duties, processing fees and environmental levies. The duty entry with the declared value of the imported goods submitted to the Bahamas Customs Department by Superwash totaled $104,853.90.
"An astute customs officer sensed that something was wrong, made the necessary inquiries and was able to obtain the correct and true invoices from the Whirlpool Corporation which totaled $183,195 and the correct customs duty was assessed at $183,195.
"Had the intervention of the officer not been made, the importer would have defrauded the public treasury of $35,253.45.
"I am advised that D'Aguilar was fined $15,000 for submitting a false declaration, but under the Customs Management Act, he could have been fined up to three times the value of the correct invoice, which equates to $540,000."
Roberts said he takes no glee or pleasure in disclosing the information.
"I publicly call on Mr. D'Aguilar to come clean with the Bahamian people and state whether or not there are any other false declarations submitted by any of his companies to the Bahamas Customs Department. The public needs to know," he added.
"By his actions, Dionisio D'Aguilar has outrightly disqualified himself for the honorable office he seeks. I call on the good people of Freetown to reject Dionisio D'Aguilar on the 10th May 2017, as he is not a fit and proper person to sit in the honorable House of Assembly."
In a statement yesterday, D'Aguilar said he was not surprised by Roberts' attempts at political espionage and skullduggery, because as usual, he has once again exposed himself for being the "political hack and buffoon that he is".
"What Mr. Roberts thought was a bombshell for him has actually blown up in his face," D'Aguilar said.
Laying out what he called the facts, he said, "A number of years ago, Superwash sought to import some laundry equipment.
"Superwash decided to use a new customs broker, an individual supposedly just getting into the business, and an invoice of the goods was submitted to him electronically to prepare and submit the entry.
"Payment was made to the broker for what the company was told was the full amount of the customs duty and the equipment was released to the company.
"Shortly, thereafter, the company learned that the broker had significantly altered the original invoice before it was submitted to customs and underpaid the duty.
"The company was the victim of a fraud by an unscrupulous broker and the loss was significant.
"Superwash was required to pay again for the duty not paid by the broker as well as a fine."
D'Aguilar said, "What Mr. Roberts would also be pleased to know is that Superwash is actually owed more than $230,000 by Bahamas Customs.
"In 2015, the company imported 210 20-pound washers valued at $625,000. A rate of duty of 45 percent was applied, when in fact, the duty rate should have been five percent.
"The company will be applying for its credit shortly.
"Now it is clear for all to see that the PLP is truly on its last legs. In their desperation to deflect from their own political garbage cans being tossed on their heads, Mr. Roberts has embarrassed himself and his party, hopefully for the last time."
In recent days, the Progressive Liberal Party has faced a firestorm over The Tribune's revelation that Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald had written emails to then Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian seeking contracts for his family's business.
The prime minister has not addressed that matter.
Roberts called it a non issue.
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