Thesp agrees to payment plan

The weird world of Wesley Snipes has taken another twist.

Seems that the fugitive “Blade” and “Passenger 57″ star has reached a settlement with the IRS concerning his tax fraud charges.

Agreement will likely see Snipes surrender to federal authorities when he next returns to the U.S. In return for agreeing to a payment plan, Snipes will not be jailed and will be allowed both to continue working and to travel abroad.

Snipes’ manager, David Schiff of the Schiff Co, made no comment about the details of the settlement, but a company spokesman said they were preparing a statement.

According to the Oct. 17 indictment, Snipes used the tax packages of two men he was indicted with to unsuccessfully claim nearly $12 million in refunds for taxes he paid in 1996 and 1997. Snipes had his taxes prepared by accountants with a history of filing false returns to reap payments for their clients, reports said.

One of the men, Eddie Ray Kahn, was skedded to appear in federal court in Florida on Wednesday. Kahn was detained in Panama on Tuesday and flown back to Florida.

Snipes is in Namibia shooting “Gallowwalker,” a horror pic by helmer Andrew Goth. “We are happy that he continues to turn up on set each day. If his indictment creates this amount of press it shows he is a star,” said Gary Smith, CEO of the pic’s Blighty financier and sales agent. Smith said that he will be meeting Thursday with pic’s financiers and completion bond provider. “We do have a bond on the pic, though it will probably have certain exceptions.”

After “Gallowwalker,” Snipes is next skedded to appear in “Chasing the Dragon,” in which he plays an FBI agent in Asia on the tail of a drug lord. Pic, backed by Hannibal Pictures and Double Edge Entertainment, is on course to shoot from January, with French helmer Chris Nahon (“Empire of the Wolves,” “Kiss of the Dragon”) in the director’s chair.

“We are thrilled that he may have settled. If he owes money it makes no sense to lock him up,” said a source close to “Dragon.”

Richard Rionda, chairman and CEO of Hannibal, said that the settlement will allow Snipes to go ahead with the $15 million-$16 million “Dragon.” It will begin a nine-week shoot in Thailand in mid-January. “Everyone from IFG to the bank are all a little anxious.”

Tax problems of a different sort have enforced some other changes on the movie. Pic, on which Snipes is credited as a producer, was due to have been set in Taiwan and lensed in the territory. But the local financial incentives did not come through. “We expected to use tax credits from Taiwan. Seems that the laws may have been passed, but the structures to use them have not been set up yet,” Rionda said.

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