US company denies mining tax debt

Columbia Gem House has denied Malawi’s accusations that it owes more than $300 billion in unpaid taxes on minerals produced in the country.

In a letter dated July 26, Malawian Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda accused the firm of duty evasion in the sale of rubies and sapphires mined from the Chimwazulo mine in Ncheu since 2008.

The letter states that Nyala Mines Limited, which is described as a subsidiary of Columbia Gem House, fees or just $600 versus a projected $24 billion in revenue from their Malawi operation.

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

Columbia Gem House is Noand has never been the owner of Nyala Mines or any other entity in Malawi, nor a signatory to any lease agreement with the Government of Malawi,” AFP said in an email.

Attorney General Nyirenda told AFP on Thursday that he supported the allegations.

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

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

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

But, he confirmed, “we demand what is due to us from the Columbia Gem House.”

The American company said that neither it nor the US Embassy received a letter from the Attorney General.

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

“We will certainly offer a formal response to any Malawian government communication and respond to any questions or concerns they may have.”

The Attorney General, in his letter, demanded that the company pay $309,600,000,000 to the Government of Malawi in the form of feesthe amount is more than 25 times the country’s GDP.

“The calculations were provided to me by the Treasury Department,” he told AFP.

“I have voluminous documents on this subject that cannot be shared with the media.”