US company denies owing unpaid mining taxes

US firm denies owing unpaid mining taxes of more than $300 billion on minerals extracted from Malawi.

US company Columbia Gem House has denied accusations from Malawi that it owes more than $300 billion in unpaid taxes on minerals extracted in the country.

In a letter dated July 26, Malawi’s attorney general Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda accused the firm of evading duty on sales of rubies and sapphires mined at its Chimwadzulo Mine in Ntcheu from 2008.

The letter alleges Nyala Mines Limited, which it describes as a Columbia Gem House subsidiary, paid taxes of just $600 against projected $24 billion revenues from their Malawian operation.

But the US firm this week denied any link to the alleged case.

“Columbia Gem House is not, and never has been, an owner of Nyala Mines or any other entity in Malawi, nor a signatory to any lease agreement with the Government of Malawi,” it said in an email to AFP.

The attorney general, Nyirenda, told AFP on Thursday that he stood by the accusations.

“I stick to the contents of the letter,” he said.

Cabinet spokesman Gospel Kazako confirmed that the attorney general represented the “government of Malawi” in the case, refusing to provide further comment.

“The issue is in the hands of legal experts,” he said.

But, he confirmed, “we are claiming what is due to us from Colombia Gem House.”

The US company said neither it nor the US embassy had received the letter from the attorney general.

“It is our understanding that it is normal protocol for an embassy to receive such correspondence from a foreign government, which again raises further concerns,” Columbia Gem House said.

“We would certainly offer a formal response to any official communication from the government of Malawi and address any questions or issues they might have.”

The attorney general in his letter demanded the company pay Malawi’s government $309,600,000,000 in taxes, a sum more than 25 times the country’s GDP.

“The calculations were given to me by the ministry of finance,” he told AFP.

“I have voluminous documents on the matter which cannot be shared with the media.”

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