Opposition Senator Wade Mark poses a question to the Minister in the Ministry of Finance during the sitting of the Senate on Tuesday.

All false!

That’s how Finance Minister Colm Imbert deemed allegations made about him by UNC Senator Wade Mark on Tuesday.

During Tuesday’s Senate debate, Mark made several claims regarding alleged non-payment of “millions of dollars” in stamp duty due on the purchase of a piece of land in Port-of-Spain for a building project. Mark attempted to link that to Imbert.

But yesterday, Imbert–delivering a personal statement to the Senate–said Mark made false allegations under cover of Parliamentary privilege and the Senate had been abused to defame his character.

“Senator Mark also insinuated that as Minister of Finance, I was somehow involved in money laundering and land fraud–all of Senator Mark’s allegations are false.

“Contrary to his outrageous insinuations, I did not, in my capacity as Finance Minister or otherwise, purchase any such land in Port-of-Spain at an undervaluation. Nor did I deprive the Treasury of stamp duty, nor did I engage in land fraud.

“The truth is that in December 2012, when I was in the opposition, and the UNC was in government, I acquired the shares in a company that owned a parcel of land in Port-of-Spain.”

He continued: “The applicable law relating to the stamp duty to be charged on the transfer of shares in a private company makes it clear that in such a case, the stamp duty is the greater of $5 per $1,000 of the consideration given (ie the payment made for the shares) or $5 per $1,000 of the value of the shares transferred, as determined by the company’s auditor.

“The company wasn’t transacting any business at the time in 2012 and the company’s auditor, a chartered accountant, valued the 30,000 issued shares in the company at $1 per share at par value, which would yield stamp duty of $150, if the value of the shares was the determining factor.

“However, the company owned land in Port-of-Spain, which was its only asset, and the company was being offered for sale therefore at a price of $7.5 million.”

Imbert said he commissioned a valuation of the market value of the land on Picton Street. In November 2012, the land was valued by a reputable chartered valuation surveyor at $7.5 million.

“One month later, in December 2012, I purchased the 30,000 issued shares in the company for the asking price of $7.5 million. I did not, as Senator Mark has falsely alleged, buy the land or company in question for $1.75 million,” Imbert said.

“Since the payment for the shares was greater than the nominal value of the shares, the stamp duty for the share transfer was subsequently assessed by the Board of Inland Revenue at the statutory rate of $5 per $1,000 of the consideration given, and paid by my attorneys to the BIR one month later in January 2013, when the share transfer transaction was registered with the BIR.”

Imbert said as a person in public life, he’s declared his ownership of the company to the Integrity Commission and its value since 2013.

Showing a document, he said he has the BIR’s 2013 receipt for the stamp duty that was paid in accordance with the law on the purchase price for the shares of $7.5 million.

“Neither the property nor the company has ever been valued at $12 million by anyone. That is a bogus, inflated figure pulled out of a hat by Senator Mark. It’s regrettable the media saw it fit to repeat and republish the untruths he uttered,” Imbert said.

He said ownership of the company shares has been open to public scrutiny in the Companies Registry since 2010.

“Senator Mark has made false and defamatory accusations about me without a shred of evidence and without any factual basis whatsoever.

“As has occurred before in my case, he cannot produce a single document to back up his false allegations, whereas I have the documentary evidence which confirms that what he’d said is simply not true.”