9 January 2013

Liberia: Libercell for Sale?

State prosecutors here are on the verge of reaching a conclusion for the sale of the Atlantic Wireless Incorporated or Libercell GSM for its indebtedness to the government of Liberia in the tune of US$734,963.20, pending outcome of discussions expected to be held with Tax Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan today at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

In a phone interview Tuesday with this paper, Finance Ministry's Counselor Powell Duan said, "We are intending to sell Libercell [for] $1m because of default.

The Tax Court gave the[company] 15 days to pay the debt, but Libercell failed; so the only option is to sell the company.

" Cllr Powell however said the decision will be made based on what comes out of today's discussion with Judge Mappy.

Earlier in December 2012, the Supreme Court of Liberia mandated Tax Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan to resume jurisdiction over Libercell GSM tax arrears trial, about three months after the high court placed stay order on the Tax Court's decision to close down the company for failure to pay by stipulation US$1,469,926.40 tax owed the government.

But acting upon the Supreme Court's mandate on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, Tax Court Judge Morgan ordered Libercell GSM to pay a total of US$734,963.20 along with clerk fees from the day of the ruling to 22 December, 2012.

The judgement showing lower amount indicates that the company might have made initial payment as per the six stipulations put at US$187,740.80 each from 30 June through 30 November, 2012 prior to the ruling on December 5.

The lower court closed down Libercell GSM on Monday, July 30 last year on grounds that the company failed to comply with payment stipulations reached before the Tax Court despite repeated warnings.

Immediately after it was shut down, the company petitioned the Supreme Court of Liberia for a writ of certiorari (for the higher court to review the decision of a lower court), prompting the high court to stay the Tax Court's closure order and returned the company's operations to normal, pending the outcome of the review.

However, in a mandate issued to the Tax Court dated November 30, 2012, Associate Justice presiding in chambers Phillip A.Z. Banks ordered that the lower court should resume jurisdiction over the case and proceed as per the directive of "his predecessor to the effect that only the clerk's fees are imposed on the petitioner" [Libercell].

The Associate Justice further mandated that the trial court ensure payment as per the stipulation of the parties which was endorsed by the court. Atlantic Wireless Incorporated or Libercell GSM, is one of the oldest GSM companies in Liberia, but has largely confined its services to selective members of the business community, mainly Lebanese and Indian merchants, ignoring ordinary Liberians.

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