By Alfred Sasako
GOVERNMENT officials are said to have uncovered the mystery surrounding the disappearance of millions of dollars the High Court ordered to be paid into Trust Accounts.
Sources familiar with the matter told Island Sun yesterday they were aware of at least four log shipments totalling 20,000 cubic metres, which the State had confiscated through proceedings in the High Court.
These shipments are valued at well over SBD$ 21 million, the sources said.
It is the money the High Court has ordered to be paid into Trust Account, but it has not happened.
“These date back to 2016,” one source said.
“What the guilty party simply did was to change its identity by creating new companies which are then used to export the logs. These new companies are largely owned or connected to the guilty party. But because they are new entities they believe they are not bound by the High Court ruling to deposit the proceeds from the sale into trust account.
“It is a very clever tactic,” the sources said.
Take the High Court Civil Case (HCCC) 496 of 2016 for example. This case involved a concession in south west Choiseul where some 3,000cm3 valued at $3 million was confiscated by the State.
A new entity created after the High Court ruling exported the shipment, but since then no funds are said to have been paid into the Trust Account.
The same happened to 4,000cm3, which was awarded to the State in HCCC 246 in 2018. Again, newly-created companies connected to the guilty party had exported the shipment, but to date no funds have been paid into the Trust Account as ordered by the High Court. This shipment was valued at $4 million.
A similar thing happened to a shipment of 7, 000 cm3, said to be valued at $8 million went through the same process. But despite the High Court Order that proceeds from the sale of the log shipment be paid into a Trust Account, no funds have been deposited, according to those familiar with the matter.
The 7,000cm3 shipment is also part of the HCCC 246 of 2018.
The third and final case involving HCCC 246 was the sale of 6,000cm3 of round logs last year. Despite the sale, no funds have been deposited in the Trust Account as ordered by the High Court.
It is not clear whether the Ministry of Forest and Research are taking steps to address the situation. It is believed that no export tax was paid on the shipments.