Tax Authority takes Singer to Court Over Two Million Birr
With allegations of tax evasion surrounding him, Kemer Yousuf will have his day in court; if he fails to show up again, contempt may be added
The Federal High Court has sent out a public domain call for Kemer Yousuf the renowned Afaan Oromoo singer, after the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority claimed that it could not find the singer at his registered residence.
However, the singer is protesting the claim.
“This is done deliberately,” Kemer said. “I lived in the same residence for the last four years in Bole district, Wereda 6, Kebele 12/13 Ho.No 419/2.”
The call, published in the state-owned daily newspaper March 17, refers to a civil suit brought against Kemer Yousuf and Berhan Insurance S.C. as joint defendants. However, in that case Kemer’s address is registered as Nifas Silk District, Kebele 57.
His wife, the renowned athlete Ejigayehu Dibaba on March 23, told Fortune that neither she nor her husband knew anything about this issue and it the first time they are being informed of the case.
Despite the couple’s claim that the issue is new to them, the case was tabled for the Sixth Bench of the Federal High Court in September 2015.
The substantial allegation is that the singer evaded paying 2.4 million Br worth of tax. The series of events behind the unpaid tax according to the charge, began with the singer importing a four wheel Toyota Land Cruiser later bearing plate number 3-69457, free of duty in 2012. The duty free privilege was extended to him as General Manager and owner of Kemer Yousuf Tour & Travel Plc. The vehicle is now in possession of a third party without any of the formal procedures that needed to be fulfilled for a transfer, including informing the relevant authorities.
Article 15 of Regulation No. 270/2012 states that it is only upon payment of appropriate Customs duty that one can transfer the vehicle to people having no similar duty free privileges.
In such cases where vehicles imported duty free are transferred to third parties, in the country’s law serious measures such as confiscation of the property, payment of the tax and criminal charges might follow.
In 2007/08, the immediate aftermath of the issuance of the said regulation, the tax Authority managed to confiscate over 2000 duty-free imported vehicles from third parties. The framework is still operational that anyone who provides a tip off on a case, would receive a percentage of the money paid for tax.
The Authority had earlier tried to resolve the case administratively before bringing it to court.
Accordingly, Kemer and the Authority’s representatives agreed that the singer would pay all that was due including tax and penalty. They also reached agreement on modalities of payment.
Kemer agreed to pay 25pc of the required total immediately and finish paying the remaining 75pc within two years. He had also brought a payment guarantee policy from Berhan Insurance S.C., which makes the two jointly and severally liable for the payment of the total amount.
After Kemer failed to pay the money within the given time, the Authority issued a warning letter to both him and Berhan Insurance S.C. in January 2015, but there was no response from them.
With filing of the case in September 2015, the two defendants were demanded to appear in court on February 19, 2016; a representative of Berhan Insurance showed up but Kemer Yousuf failed to appear. As per the country’s procedural law requirement the court therefore ordered a public announcement calling Kemer to appear at the bench on May 10, 2016.
“Of course now that I know I will appear in court on the set date,” Kemer told Fortune. ”I immediately got myself a lawyer who will closely follow up the matter.”
Besides his achievements in the entertainment industry, Kemer Yousuf has been actively engaged in business since his return from Canada in 2008.
In 2011 DEK Oromia Business Investment Plc was established by Kemer, Dinku Deyasa, and Elias Ebissa. Ownership was there a joint venture between government and DEK. The government has a stake of 44.3pc while the remaning share is had by DEK.
He seems, however, to be missing in action especially from his engagements in the management of Sodere Resort, people working in the industry particularly in Oromia Region said.
Kemer was very vocal about his distance from the property, and associated the case at hand as an extension of the problem he has with his partner Dinku Deyasa.
The artist is also subject of controversy mostly, on Diaspora blogs that continuously blame him for developing a good rapport with the EPRDF government despite the mistreatment of Oromo people in the country.