Helicopter owner owes Govt. outstanding taxes

The Australian owner of a helicopter which the Ministry of Revenue plans to auction owes the Government of Samoa outstanding taxes. 

The impounded aircraft will not be released to the owner until the import goods and services tax (G.S.T.) payable on the helicopter is settled in full.

This is the response from the Ministry’s C.E.O., Matafeo Avalisa Viali-Fautua’alii, in response to questions from Samoa Observer on whether the Ministry will release the aircraft to Australian company, Red Balloon Helicopters Pty Ltd., who claims ownership of the aircraft. 

She did not say how much the company owes. But she said there were never any repeated attempts by the Australian company to get comments from the Ministry regarding the helicopter. 

“In fact, there was a letter from the C.E.O. to Michael van der Zypp dated September 1, 2016, in which Mr. Zypp requested to re-export the helicopter back to Australia." 

“In response to this, the C.E.O. advised that the helicopter can only be re-exported after settlement in full of the import goods and services tax (G.S.T.) that is due to the State (among others).” 

Matafeo said on April 27, 2017, the Ministry advised the lawyer for Samoa Helicopters Ltd., Travis Lamb, inter alia that even if proof was presented confirming the true owner of the helicopter, the fact is import G.S.T. is owing on the helicopter.

“Section 102(2) of the Customs Act 2014 clearly provides that the duty is owed by the importer of the goods." 

“An importer here includes, among others, the consignee of the goods; the consignee on the import entry is Samoa Helicopters Ltd. As such, until and unless the import G.S.T. payable on the helicopter is paid in full, the Controller has a right to the helicopter as per section 114, and has the power to seize and detain it as an uncustomed good under subsection 267(1)(a)(viii) of the Customs Act 2018.” 

Matafeo also said the absence of the helicopter’s log book and service manual does not render the helicopter unusable. 

“Not having the log books and the service manual would only affect the value of the helicopter,” she explained. 

In her statement to Samoa Observer, Matafeo highlighted that parties who claim to have interest in the helicopter are to write to her to reconsider her decision in seizing the helicopter.

“The timeframe for written application for reconsideration is October 5, 2018. Once we receive the application, our Ministry will then assess the application."

“If the controller does not receive any application within this set timeframe, then the original intended auction will proceed under section 283 of the Act.” 

In yesterday’s front page, Australian pilot Michael van der Zypp said he has tried unsuccessfully over the past two years to get the Government of Samoa to release his company’s helicopter. It is understood Mr. van der Zypp intends to travel to Samoa to put forward his case and is in touch with a local legal representative. 

The helicopter, according to aviation enthusiasts, will go for about US$750,000 (T$285,512) on the open market.

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