Tax Refund Shortfalls: Only Najib has the Power, but will Blame be on Irwan?

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Guan Eng is questioning if Najib is trying to pass the buck to Irwan for acting beyond his powers in the refund shortfalls.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s claim that he did not know about the shortfall in refunds for income tax and Goods and Services Tax has placed Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah squarely in the crosshairs.

He said if Najib is to be believed in this matter, “then Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan will bear the wrongdoings”, including the offence of criminal breach of trust and also abusing or exceeding his power by assuming the power of a minister.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today said that Najib had the power to approve the decision not to transfer RM19.25 billion to the goods and services tax (GST) Refunds Trust Account.

He said if Najib, who was the then finance minister, did not give approval for the money not to be transferred, then the former Treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah should be held responsible for all the alleged offences.

“Not only for the alleged criminal breach of trust but also for abusing or unlawfully taking the role of a minister.

“This is because only the finance minister has the power to approve the decision not to transfer the RM19.25 billion to the GST Refunds Trust Account or for the GST refunds not to be made within two weeks as stipulated by the law,” he said in a statement in Kuala Lumpur today.

The statement was issued in response to Najib’s answers to the three questions put forward by Lim in connection with the loss of RM19.25 billion in GST claims, last week.

Lim first asked the former prime minister if he had authorised for GST refunds not to be made within two weeks as stipulated by the law.

Secondly, he questioned if Najib had approved of the decision made by Irwan to not transfer the full RM82.9 billion as requested by the Customs Department but only RM63.5 billion to the GST refund trust fund, which caused the government facing a shortfall of RM19.25 billion.

Finally, he asked if Najib had allowed for the GST refunds to be used as the government’s revenue and as the administration pleases.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Najib said the answer was “no” to all three questions.

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“It is hard to believe that a finance minister did not realise that as of May 31, there were 121,429 companies and individuals that did not receive their GST refunds since 2015, although the law says that refunds must be made within two weeks.

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“At the same time, the previous administration also did not refund RM16bil to taxpayers as of May 31,” Lim said.

He pointed out that Irwan also chaired the meeting responsible for the RM16 billion of excess income tax and real property gains tax refunds.

“Will Najib also claim that he did not know or was not involved in the decisions made and that everything was decided by Dr Mohd Irwan at that time?” Lim asked.

He said that Customs director-general T Subromaniam had confirmed that the agency requested for the refund during the monthly meeting of the commission.

“Unfortunately there has not been a single payment made because there was only RM148.6 million in the Tabung Bayaran Balik GST fund,” Lim said.

While saying that the police were investigating the loss under Section 409 of the Penal Code, Lim said he wondered whether Najib would give the same answers when the police call him to record his statement.

Irwan has been reported as saying that he would leave his fate to the police’s investigation.