PM quickly shuts off Finance Ministers critique of Olioli Wine company

APIA, SAMOA – 24 JUNE 2020: The Prime Minister was quick to close off critical comments by the Minister of Finance against the company that produces Olioli wine that had been under investigation for many non-compliance issues.

The Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti responded after the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt recommended to give the company a second chance if they satisfy what have been ordered to comply with the standards.

But Sili pointed out to Tialavea that Government had been giving too many chances to non-complying companies.

“Like Olioli. It must be closed down,” Sili emphasized.

“What’s the use of money when the drinks are causing so many social problems? We must protect the young people of our country,” stated Sili.

Before Sili finished, the Prime Minister intervened and sternly said to leave the issue for Cabinet to discuss.

Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, Minister of Revenue and Sili Epa Tuioti, Minister of Finance.

Tialavea who took the whole of today’s Parliament session to reply to questions raised by Members, defended the Olioli wine which is a product of the Chinese company Skyline. The Company had been under investigation by the Ministry of Revenue when members of the public complained about the easy access of the wine to young people. The wine has been packed in several colours and flavours in cheap plastic bottles and sold together with non-alcoholic beverages in the supermarkets.

The company had also been issuing false receipts for sales to avoid paying both excise and VAGST taxes.

Tialavea told Parliament today that the company had been penalised “with heavy monetary fines” and have paid all their excise taxes for all wine bottles produced as well as for the false receipts.

He also said that the Liquor Board that he also chairs, has ordered the company to use glass 1 liter bottles instead of the cheap 150mls plastic bottles as before.

He said the products comply with health regulations and the products also pass the SROS tests and that the company employs about 40 locals.

He recommended that the Ministry of Revenue give the company a second chance if it complies with all issues pointed out and must face legal action the next time.

Independent MP, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata’ivao again pointed out another lot of the company’s false sales receipts “that were handed to me this morning.”

He said by his estimation, Skyline that produces Olioli wine should be paying no less than $2m talā a year for its wine products in excise tax alone.

Meantime, the Minster said that the wine production is on hold while the company is setting up its security cameras at their factory.

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