Wednesday, July 30, 2014

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) DRC report says miners owe US$3,7 billion in tax, fines
Sunday, 02 February 2014 00:00

Democratic Republic of Congo is owed an estimated us$3,7 billion in unpaid customs duties and fines by companies operating in its copper-rich Katanga province between 2008 and 2013, according to an unpublished report commissioned by the public prosecutor’s office.

The report, seen by Reuters and dated November 2013, is part of an ongoing government probe into suspected malpractice by customs agents and companies in the vast south-eastern province.

It accused companies there of under-declaring the value of imports and exports, and sometimes avoiding tax altogether, often with the collusion of customs officials.

Some companies named in the report questioned the accuracy of its findings. The head of the customs agency in Katanga also said proper consultations had not been held with the companies and the report’s findings were exaggerated.

Public Prosecutor Flory Kabange Numbi declined to comment directly on the report.

In a letter to local rights group seen by Reuters, he said it was too early to draw conclusions about the outcome of the overall investigation, which is continuing.

Congo’s mining production has been limited by energy and infrastructure problems, and the government is under pressure to maximise revenues from the sector if it is to stand a chance of hauling its 65 million people out of poverty.

Two government ministers backed the broader investigation, saying it must be completed and any cash owed by firms must be paid to the government.

The report, compiled by a team that undertook a 10-day mission to Katanga, led by Congolese Attorney-General Simon Nyandu Shabandu, examined 25 cases of alleged customs infractions.

It found that 11 companies were liable for us$741 million in unpaid taxes and fines, including Mutanda Mining, a copper miner 69 percent-owned by Glencore Xstrata plc.

The mission’s report said penalties were agreed by “all parties” following talks between the firms and the customs agency.

It noted, however, the experts had not visited Mutanda Mining, pending instructions from authorities.
Glencore strongly denied any wrongdoing and said the report was inaccurate. It said it had not agreed to any penalties.

“Contrary to what is stated in the draft document, no contact was made by the ‘mission’ with Mutanda mining. Mutanda has no outstanding taxes or fines,” said a Glencore spokesman in an emailed statement.
The mission said a further 252 alleged cases remained outstanding and it estimated the total amount owed to the state from these at US$3 billion. Chemaf, a privately owned Congolese company cited by the report as among the 11 owing taxes, also denied its findings.

“We are confirming that Chemaf does not owe US$21,4 million in unpaid taxes,” said Chemaf director Sebastien Ansel.

Representatives for Hyper Psaro, United Petroleum and United Oil & Soap — all named in the report as owing taxes — declined to comment. The companies are all part of privately owned Congolese fuel, commodities and transportation conglomerate Hyper Psaro Group.

Other companies identified as owing money — Comexas, Socimex, Sabot, Marine International, Frontier, Congo Loyal and Trade Service — either did not respond to requests for comment or could not immediately be traced. — Reuters.

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