Gambia Shut Down Belgian Passport And ID Card Company Amid Tax Evasion Allegations

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A Belgian company contracted to issue passports and Identity cards to Gambians has been shut down for tax evasion today.  Gambia’s Revenue Authority (GRA) had closed the Semlex offices in Kanifing. The GRA claimed that Semlex has not been paying taxes. This followed repeated demands from GRA for Semlex to settle what it calls its tax arrears to the state.

Semlex claimed that it had been exempted from paying taxes when it signed a contract with the new Barrow government; a claim the government denied. The Ministry of Trade is insisting that Semlex must pay taxes.

A contractual paperwork that was signed between the two parties suggest that Semlex was indeed offered tax exemption on goods or equipment the company imports into the country.

On Monday, armed police stormed the Semlex offices and ordered it shutdown. The GRA had placed notice board on the Semlex premises—stating that the company had been shut down for alleged tax evasion.

Semlex had its head offices in Belgium. The company claimed that it had signed a biometric passport and ID card contract with the former administration of dictator Yahya Jammeh. The contract was terminated by the Jammeh regime.

When the change of government occurred in December of 2016, Semlex threatens to sue the government if its contract with the state was not allowed to proceed. The government finally budged and awarded the contract to Semlex without any formal public tender. It was single source contract.

Amadou Sanneh was Finance Minister when the contract was awarded to Semlex. A Gambian biometric company Pristine was sidelined during the award of the contract.  Pristine had bidded for the contract when it was initially placed on public bidding, but the company never succeeded in getting the contract. The Finance Ministry had reversed its decision and decided to withdraw the public tender.

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