This was revealed by Legal Notice 54 in the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette of April 10.
The document cited an order, made under the Tourism Development Act, for a tax-break in the form of a capital allowance on the brothers’ investment of $20,566,731 on the resort as an approved tourism project.
The order also exempts the resort from paying any tax on its gains or profits for five years.
The capital allowance is for five successive accounting periods from 2007 to 2014 at a rate of one-fifth of the $20,566,731 million, or an estimated $4 million per period. This means that no taxes would be paid on the first $20 million the resort makes, as this sum represents the cost of the Boynes’ investment.
The TT Gazette also carried other legal notices announcing similar tax-breaks for the Marriott Courtyard Hotel (which had been built at capital cost of $48 million), Kapok Hotel ($14 million), Stonehaven Villas in Tobago ($36.7 million) and Paria Suites ($14 million). While the main tax-break — the $20 million capital allowance — can be claimed in a period between January 1, 2007 and March 2014, the Legal Notice states the order is deemed to run from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2006, a period when Roger Boynes was a government minister. The order also gives generous tax-breaks on equipment depreciation, business losses and dividends earned on the project. In a recent interview, Ronald Boynes assured Newsday that everything was above-board regarding the Salybia resort.
“Under the Tourism Act hotels including ours are entitled to apply for the relevant tax exemptions allowed by law. It’s been operating since 2003. Initially there was some problem with the legislation which had to be rectified, and now lots of hotels including ours are now coming on-stream.”
So, how had the Boynes’ funded the project?
Ronald Boynes replied: “Through the usual bank facilities. It is a commercial venture, so the bank would be satisfied as to its viability.” He did not name the bank when asked. Ronald said the resort was a venture in a fledgling industry in that region so that incentives were important. “I hope other people will follow. There are several guest houses in the area. We have a long history of pushing for development in the area, including eco-tourism.”
Had there been a conflict of interest between Roger’s involvement in the hotel and his public duties? Ronald said this was not so and that Roger was not a government minister, but an Opposition member when construction had begun.
“We started building the hotel in 1999 or 2000 and it was opened in 2003. I could tell you of the struggles and fights we had faced from the then government (that is, the former UNC administration), but that’s another story.” Ronald said the resort was backed by the banks based on his presentations to them. He said Roger did not make any presentations and had been nowhere near the seat of political power. “Everything is above board.” Ronald said Roger became a minister in 2001, “when the hotel facilities were well advanced.”
Ronald said he did not think any commercial bank would give preferential treatment to a minister because they needed to act prudently in their shareholders’ interest.
Should politicians take a vow of poverty?
Roger replied: “People should conduct their affairs to comply with the ethics of public life and the Integrity in Public Life Act.”
Roger said the resort was located on “family property” which the brothers then directly acquired. “Initially it belonged to an aunt of mine who sold it to us when she decided to migrate. It is a small hotel, but with full service capacity.”
The resort was utilised by Prime Minister Patrick Manning who hosted a five-day induction retreat for his newly-elected Cabinet in November 2007, which a Newsday story had estimated to cost from $328,000 to $369,000 for accommodation and meals, based on a per person daily rate of roughly $1,600 to $1,800. Roger Boynes was Minister of Sport in the previous Manning administration but did not stand for re-selection last election because he had undergone back surgery.