Longtime Surrey politician Sukh Dhaliwal is stepping down from his run with the B.C. Liberals, the day after it was revealed he is facing six charges under the Income Tax Act.
Dhaliwal, who was the B.C. Liberal candidate for Surrey-Panorama leading up to the May election, announced before a crowd at the Grand Taj Banquet Hall in Newton on Friday that he’s stepping down.
Dhaliwal is facing six charges under the Income Tax Act for failing to file returns for a company for which he was responsible.
“The last two days have been extremely difficult for me and my family,” Dhaliwal told a group of reporters Friday afternoon. “I want to make sure I take care of the outstanding matters that are before the courts.”
He said in no way did the B.C. Liberal party push him to make the decision to step down.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “It’s my decision, it’s my family’s decision, and that’s what I’m making.”
Dhaliwal is president of Genco Consultants Inc., the firm that allegedly failed to file tax returns for six years.
The federal indictment reads that Dhaliwal, “being director of Genco Consultants Inc… did unlawfully direct authorize, assent to, acquiesce in or participate in Genco Consultant Inc.’s failure to file a completed Corporate Income Tax Return on Form T2” for the years 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Dhaliwal told The Leader Thursday he accepteds complete responsibility for the problem, but noted he was not involved in day-to-day operations of the company.
“I relied on others to make sure the company was in good standing in regards to taxes and other matters,” Dhaliwal said. “That was my mistake. I am the director, so I take full responsibility, and I’m working to resolve these matters through the proper channels.”
He noted he owns Dhaliwal and Associates Land Surveying, which has filed taxes every year, as has he personally.
The charges against Dhaliwal were sworn on Oct. 15, 2012, just two weeks before the B.C. Liberals announced he was their candidate for the Surrey-Panorama riding for this May’s election.
Dhaliwal was running on a platform of fiscal responsibility.
The indictment states a “notice of requirement was served personally on him on August 24, 2011…”
Asked why he didn’t file the back years’ taxes at that point, he said the matter is complicated.
“This company is reliant on many other things, and it’s before the courts and I cannot say that right now,” Dhaliwal said Thursday. “I can’t comment any further.”
According to B.C. Registry Services, Dhaliwal’s wife Roni is secretary of Genco. She is facing 14 charges under the Income Tax Act, according to court documents.
A spokesperson at Canada Revenue Agency said Wednesday he couldn’t comment on tax matters that are before the courts.
Both Sukh and Roni Dhaliwal were arraigned Dec. 17 and their next court date is Feb. 21.
Given the chance to do things differently, Dhaliwal said he would have put Genco in the hands of his land surveying company.
The maximum penalties under the act for the offence are a $25,000 fine and a year in jail.
Dhaliwal was MP for Newton-North Delta from 2007 to 2011, losing his seat to New Democrat Jinny Simms in the May 2011 federal election.
It’s not the first time Dhaliwal has been at the heart of controversy.
In 2008, when he was MP, he made headlines when he wrote a letter of support for international drug trafficker Ranjit Cheema to California District Judge Stephen Wilson, urging him to give Cheema a chance at rehabilitation.
Dhaliwal described Cheema as a man who would one day return to his family in Canada and seemed committed to rehabilitation.
“I personally believe, along with tougher laws, rehabilitation is fundamentally essential to make our society, our country, and our planet a better place to live,” Dhaliwal wrote in the letter on Government of Canada letterhead. “I have no doubt that if he (Cheema) is given support and direction, he will be a strong, active member of his community in years to come.”
Despite the support, Cheema was sentenced in California to five years in prison for conspiring to smuggle 200 kilograms of heroin from Pakistan to North America in 1998.
Dhaliwal, when confronted about the correspondence in the middle of a re-election campaign, regretted not having checked with police before writing the letter.
Cheema was gunned down in Vancouver last May.
– with files from Sheila Reynolds