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No jail time for Asian businessman who bribed a tax agent

[SN file photo]
Gov’t says first time offender, didn’t create an “unsafe environment”
Translated by Samoa News staff

During sentencing in the High Court on Monday of an Asian businessman initially accused of bribing a Tax Office agent two years ago and later pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge, the Attorney General’s Office asked for “no jail time” for the defendant.

Assistant AG Gerald Murphy’s verbal motion prompted Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea to question the government’s motive behind arguing for no jail time, saying that of the many criminal cases the government has brought before the court, which hands down sentencing, this is the first time the court has heard a strong urging from the government for a probative sentence and no jail time.

According to Murphy, Lin is a first time offender, and didn’t create an unsafe environment at the time he committed the crime.

Earlier this year in February, the defendant reached a plea agreement with the government whereby prosecutors amended one of the counts down to attempted bribery, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by not more than one-year imprisonment, or a fine of not more than $1,0000 — or both.

The agreement was accepted by the court which then dismissed the remaining charges.

Lin’s attorney, Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde agreed with the government for a probative sentence and no jail time.

Patea told Lin that his actions were very serious, for the simple fact that if the tax agent had accepted the cash bribe, there is a possibility of the negative impact on the government’s finances as the tax office agent would have to come up with a way to forgive the tax debt owed by Lin to ASG.

Patea ordered that the $1,000 cash that Lin gave to the tax agent be turned over to the court, which will hold on to it for the time being.

The court sentenced Lin to two years probation under several conditions.

He is to pay a $1,000 court fine within the next 30-days, abide with laws of the territory — including tax and immigration — and not commit any new crimes.

Based on court documents, it was in February 2015 that Lin, owner and president of Ocean Star Enterprises, Inc. was charged based on allegations that he tried to bribe a Tax Office agent the year before.

Lin was charged with three counts of bribery of a public servant, a class D felony punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 - or both, for each count.

Court  documents say that on two separate occasions Lin tried to bribe Tax Office auditors, to help him out with issues concerning an audit of his tax records. A total of four meetings took place between the auditors and Lin.

During the fourth and final meeting, court documents say Lin pulled out his wallet and withdrew several $100 bills - totaling $1,000 - and placed them under one of the agent’s work bags, telling him to keep the money for Christmas presents. The tax agent told Lin that he could not accept the money, but Lin got up and left the money there.  The agent reported the incident and took the cash to his supervisor.

Before he was sentenced on Monday, Lin — through an interpreter — apologized for his crime and asked for leniency so he can continue operating his business, which not only supports his workers and their families, but also himself and his family.

Lin shared with the court his goal to continue his business in American Samoa and promised the court that he will continue to work hard towards paying the taxes his company owes the government.

He said he has employed a tax auditor to review all his financial records and by doing this, it is now clear how much in taxes his business owes the government.

Tauiliili-Langkilde informed the court that Lin entered American Samoa in 2006 with the hopes of setting up a business in the territory and that dream became a reality in 2008, when his business opened.

It has since expanded and continues to operate today.

After the government conducted a tax audit of Lin’s business operation, Tauiliili-Langkilde said the Tax Office discovered that her client owes $4.6 million in back-taxes, but after Lin employed his own auditor to re-verify all records, it was revealed that Lin only owed half of what the Tax Office had claimed.

She also noted that her client continues to make payments towards what is owed in back-taxes up to now.