Dalley reports widespread fraud, corruption at land titles office
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
HORACE Dalley yesterday painted a picture of widespread fraud and corruption at the land titles office that, he said, cost the country millions of dollars in lost revenue.
According to Dalley, who has portfolio responsibility for land and the environment, forensic investigators sent into the office by the government found that the most prevalent instances of irregularities involved the evasion of transfer tax and stamp duty. He also said that in many cases, the registrar of titles' signature had been forged.
"There are two situations that apply," Dalley reported to Parliament. "The first situation is where fraudulent documents were presented on which endorsements were made on the title. In other cases, fraudulent endorsements were made on the title without the payment of stamp duty and transfer tax."
He said that in one case involving 12 strata lots where endorsements were fraudulently made on a title and stamp duty, as well as transfer tax were not paid, the Taxpayer Audit and Assessment Department had determined that the country lost $14.5 million in revenue.
Last week Thursday, Prime Minister P J Patterson announced that he had sent the Police Fraud Squad and revenue agents into the Titles Division of the National Land Agency to probe what he said were cases of widespread evasion of taxes and duties uncovered by foreign investigators.
Patterson said that the government had been made aware of "a number of irregularities" in the Land Titles Division last year and had called in professional investigators from abroad to carry out a rigorous probe. He also said that Dalley would make a statement on the matter in the lower House yesterday.
Last night, Dalley could not be contacted to provide specifics of the forensic investigators' findings. However, in his presentation he had said that in addition to the evasion of transfer tax and stamp duty, irregularities were uncovered in the production of titles outside the Land Titles Division and the illegal acquisition of duplicate certificates through lost title applications.
He explained that under Section 82 of the Registration of Titles Act, whenever a duplicate certificate of title is lost or destroyed, the registered owner of the land can apply to the registrar of titles to cancel the lost certificate of title and to register a new one.
But, said the minister, "cases of fraud by way of this legislative provision have been identified ... (and), in many cases the registrar of titles' signature has been forged".
Dalley did not say how the administration intended to handle the fraud. However, he appealed to the public to report cases of irregularities to the National Land Agency's hotline -- 1-888-991-LAND.