Claire dela Fuente gestures during an event in Manila. Facebook photo
A noted Filipina singer turned businesswoman, who operated one of Metro Manila’s biggest private bus companies, was convicted by the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) and sentenced to seven years in jail for tax evasion of $33 million.
The CTA imposed the stiff jail sentence on Claire dela Fuente, aside from ordering her to pay a $1,000 fine as it rejected her defence that she did not participate in the management and operation of the bus company, the Philippine Corinthian Liner Corporation.
Dela Fuente, tagged as the Philippines version of America’s songbird Karen Carpenter, gained popularity in the late 1970s with her jukebox hits in Filipino and, for one time, was also given the title of “Asia’s Sweetest Voice.”
In the same decision, the court likewise agreed with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) that filed the complaint that the company failed to pay taxes amounting to $33 billion for seven years from 1998 to 2004.
As a result, the CTA ordered the company, which was confirmed to be engaged in shuttle services, hauling, vulcanising, auto repair and auto parts manufacturing, to pay fine of $14,000.
Based on the court ruling, Dela Fuente was meted out one year in jail for each count of tax evasion, for a total of seven years.
It threw out the singer’s main defence that except for her role as the company treasurer, she did not participate in its active management for seven years from 1998 to 2004.
For instance, the court cited records from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board as well as the Land Transportation Office, which contradicted her stand which showed that Dela Fuente represented herself as the company’s president and general manager.
“Without doubt,” the court pointed out, “Dela Fuente was well aware the operations (of the company) were conducted through smaller bus operators who used the franchises granted exclusively to the company.”
It added: “Considering that she herself admitted that she was given the authority to settle any claims by the government against the company, including unpaid taxes, Dela Fuente cannot escape the consequences of being an officer, agent or employee of the company and must be held liable for its crime.”
Dela Fuente’s lawyers said they would file a motion asking the court to reconsider its decision and, if denied, would elevate the issue to the Court of Appeals.
According to the decision 30 per cent of the revenue will go to the federal government, and 70 per cent to the local governments.
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