Spanish version

INTERNATIONAL

Grupo Wisa investigated for tax issues in Guatemala

It operates duty free stores in airports.

Spanish version

Temas:

Guatemala Prosecutor Heidy De Leon reported yesterday that any payment Grupo Wisa has made to the government is unrelated to the investigation opened into allegations of alleged customs fraud estimated to be $7.5 million.

This statement comes after Wisa, based in Panama, issued a statement to local media that it has paid nearly $10.4 million to Guatemala "for rights, royalties, taxes and tributes."

De Leon said the payments were made to the Civil Aviation Department for the rental of space and "have no connection with the offence that we are investigating."

On Thursday, the Guatemalan Public Ministry closed 10 stores and a warehouse of La Riviera, located in the La Aurora Airport in the capital of Guatemala.

La Riviera is the trade name of Grupo Wisa in Guatemala, whose chairman is businessman Abdul Waked.

Waked called the move "an insult."

"Our company was invited to operate in the international airport to encourage free competition and generate revenues to the state that had not been received for more than 20 years," the statement said, noting existing businesses in the airport's free zone had been operated by charitable foundations that did not pay rent or other monthly fees.

Wakes said that those competitors have been trying to block access to the airport in court for more than seven years, and that his business had been audited several times by the tax authority, which found no irregularities.

Grupo Wisa Vice President Juan Luis Correa said that they hope to "resume operations as soon as possible to minimize the damage that will be caused to more than 100 Guatemalan workers and their families who depend on these jobs."

Prosecutors have also issued an international arrest warrant for Panamanian lawyer Lucia Touzard Romo, as the signatory of documents related to the business. 

Prosecutors have said that the company was not properly granted tax-exempt status, which can only be done by the congress.

A number of Guatemalan officials have been charged with tax evasion, including Rudy Villeda, Oscar Funes and Customs officials Mayra Patricia Rhodes Ruano, Raul Guzman Marroquin and Lidia Lucrecia Morales.

De Leon explained that the court will decide in January whether or not they will be called to trial.

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