Ex-military comptroller, wife acquitted in P400-M tax evasion case
MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) has acquitted former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife Erlinda in a P400-million tax evasion case.
“After careful consideration of the testimonial and documentary evidence presented by both parties, the Court finds that the prosecution was not able to prove the guilt of the accused spouses Ligot beyond reasonable doubt,” the CTA’s Third Division said in its 83-page ruling.
The Ligots are facing cases for violation of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 for failure to supply correct and accurate information in their joint Income Tax Return (ITR) for the taxable year 2001 and for failure to report in their income tax returns for taxable years 2002.
Because of their alleged violation, they have incurred a total tax deficiency of P428,077,547.54.
The couple has been accused of making multi-million bank deposits, investments as well as purchasing properties in the Philippines and abroad.
However, the Tax Court disallowed documentary and testimonial pieces of evidence by the prosecution for violating the Bank Secrecy Law as well as the Foreign Currency Deposit Act.
While there are exceptions to the prohibitions under the law, the Tax Court pointed out that it is not applicable to the cases against the Ligot spouses.
“It is for the reasons…that the branch managers and/or custodian of records were not allowed to testify and/or produce documents relating to the accounts of both accused in various banks and other financial institutions,” the Tax Court said.
“It is for the very same reasons that the testimony of the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) bank officer and all the exhibits he identified were stricken off the record,” the CTA further stated.
The Tax Court also said the prosecution failed to offer as evidence or present certified true copies of proof of ownership of the properties allegedly acquired by the Ligots.
“Documents which have been identified and marked as exhibits during pre-trial or trial but which were not formally offered in evidence cannot in any manner be treated as evidence. Neither can such unrecognized proof be assigned any evidentiary weight and value,” the Tax Court said.
Summarizing the kinds of evidence presented by the prosecution, the Tax Court said “the evidence relied upon by the prosecution to prove their allegations have either been excluded, as in the case of bank deposits or were found to have scant probative value due to failure to establish their authenticity and due execution.”
“More unfortunate is the fact that a number of exhibits that would have been served as building blocks for the prosecution’s case have simply not been offered in evidence,” the Tax Court added.
But the Tax court said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) may still pursue the civil aspect of the case to collect deficiency income taxes from the couple.
“It is well-settled that the taxpayer’s obligation to pay the tax is an obligation that is created by law and does not arise from the offense of tax evasion,” the Tax court said.
The couple was accused of filing false income tax returns and Statements of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN) from 2001 to 2004, declaring income mostly from compensation, instead of the charge of accumulating a wealth of more than P400 million over a four-year period.
They were also cited for acquiring undeclared real estate properties in Metro Manila and in the provinces and making huge bank deposits allegedly beyond their legitimate earnings.
The ruling was signed by Associate Justices Ma. Belen M. Ringpis-Liban and Erlinda P. Uy. /ee
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