Three years after then Justice in Chamber of the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, halted Tax Court efforts to force the payment of US$190,800 as oil and gas company Srimex’s tax obligation to government, the company is yet to settle its responsibility, court documents reveal.
Up to present, Srimex has paid US$47,700, representing 25 percent of the US$190,800, with a remaining amount of US$143,100, for which the court has been lenient to enforce its collection, an employee of the Tax Court claimed.
Srimex is owned by Musa Hassan Bility, a businessman and president of the Liberia Football Association (LFA).
In August 2012, Judge Eva Mappy Morgan held Srimex liable for evading government taxes to the tune of US$190,800 and subsequently ordered the company’s management to make an immediate payment of 25 percent, which is US$47,700, within 24 hours of her ruling.
Judge Morgan further threatened to shut down the company if it refused to comply with her decision.
Her decision came immediately after Srimex’s legal team openly admitted that their client evaded government taxes.
Surprisingly, after they admitted that they had not paid taxes for some years, Srimex’s lawyers hurriedly proceeded to the Supreme Court, pleading with then Chamber Justice Ja’neh to stop Judge Morgan from enforcing her decision, which Justice Ja’neh accepted.
Judge Morgan had not enforced her ruling when in early 2013 she was reassigned by the Full Bench of the Supreme Court to head the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice.
She was replaced with Judge Mozart A. Chesson, whose staff hinted the Daily Observer that he was finding it difficult to have Srimex pay their remaining US$143,100 tax obligation.
A new arrangement was entered into between the parties (Srimex and government) under Judge Chesson in September 2013, during one of the hearings.
In that arrangement, which copy is with the Daily Observer, Srimex’s legal team claimed that they have engaged with state lawyers regarding payment of the money.
The arrangement statement read: “And amicable payment arrangement has been derived which if the defendant upon the judgment amounts US$143,100, and if payment is not made, the defendant should be immediately due payable and enforced against the defendant.”
The arrangement was intended to give Srimex one year (2014) to have them settle their tax obligation, which there is no document with the court to establish that they have made good on their promise.
The case started on May 3, 2013, when government filed a complaint for an action of failure to pay overdue and outstanding duties owed them in the amount of US$468,900 with interest against Srimex Oil and Gas Company.
Government said that the company managed to pay US$120,000, leaving a balance of US$348,900.
However, Srimex’s lawyers rejected the claim and admitted that they owed US$190,800, which Judge Morgan agreed and ruled the matter to trial based on the US$190,800.