CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy says the agency is complying with a federal subpoena of tax records involving dozens of companies run by Gov. Jim Justice and his family.
Hardy said the agency is obtaining outside counsel to comply with the subpoena and the many records.
“Of course we have undertaken that process,” Hardy said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” “So it’s a very large subpoena. It’s very broad and very comprehensive. We’re working very hard to get that done.”
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The subpoena was confirmed this week because of a Freedom of Information Act request by West Virginia MetroNews.
The subpoena is not evidence of wrongdoing, but it does indicate a federal investigation is underway.
This was the second federal subpoena of a West Virginia agency to be confirmed. The other was a query of the state Department of Commerce for any communications with The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Classic golf event and Old White Charities, all led by Justice.
Justice is not only the governor, but is said to be West Virginia’s only billionaire. He has long been dogged by questions over debts and unpaid fines.
A 2016 National Public Radio report that was published when Justice was running for governor said his companies owed $15 million in taxes and fines.
That amount was spread over six states. The amount has grown, with additional tax liens being filed since the original report.
The amount in West Virginia was $4.71 million, according to NPR.
In this instance, federal investigators asked the Department of Revenue for records relating to 97 of Justice’s companies and their tax obligations.
The investigators also want records related to Justice’s announcement in 2018 that he had cleared up tax debts with the state.
That was when Justice appeared in the Governor’s Conference Room along with Hardy and other state officials who are his employees to declare his West Virginia tax debt had been cleared.
The state officials did not specify how much debt had been cleared up or what percentage was paid.
Now federal prosecutors want to know more.
The subpoena made reference to reporting to a grand jury by April 30, which was Tuesday. Hardy said the Department of Revenue is still gathering the information, some of which is hard copies and some digital.
“We haven’t completed our response to the subpoena,” Hardy said. “We handed it over to our counsel and stepped aside to let our counsel perform the search.”
Hardy said that effort is being spearheaded by outside counsel engaged through the state Attorney General’s Office.
The Attorney General’s Office on Friday confirmed that the Charleston law firm of Bailey & Wyant has the assignment.
“From the day it came in we said we need to engage counsel, not handle it internally,” Hardy said. “We went through the process to seek approval.”