Myanmar Govt Targets Mines Over Undelivered Gold Payments

Naypyitaw – The government will file lawsuits against 138 mining companies which allegedly failed to deliver gold to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, according to government spokesman U Zaw Htay.

“We are planning to file lawsuits against 138 companies and have sent notices to 104 firms,” said U Zaw Htay. The Irrawaddy had asked about legal proceedings against Soe Tun Shein, the owner of National Prosperity Co.

U Zaw Htay told the media on Friday that 153 mining companies owe tax payments to the government. The government has already filed lawsuits against dozens of companies and the courts have given rulings in some cases. And authorities are in the process of filing complaints against 138 other companies.

National Prosperity won a five-year contract under the previous government to operate gold mines in Moehti Moemi in Yamethin Township, Mandalay Region, until September 2016. According to the agreement, the company agreed to pay almost 5.6 tons of gold in tax to the government.

In 2013 the company received a three-year extension to the payment period and was given permission to continue mining for another 17 years under a production-sharing contract once the gold was delivered.

According to No. 2 Mining Enterprise, the company has failed to pay the monthly instalments totaling 2 tons of gold since 2013. As a result, the ministry ordered the company to suspend operations at the end of 2017.

The company is allegedly still mining in spite of the order and the ministry revoked its mining license in February and terminated agreements with the company in May last year.

In August 2018 a director with No. 2 Mining Enterprise filed a complaint under the Mines Law with Yamethin Township Court against Soe Tun Shein and four directors of National Prosperity.

They face up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 kyats (US$33) and the company will never get another license to mine.

Soe Tun Shein did not attend court and fled. Police declared him a fugitive in March 2019. After photos of him at an airport in Thailand went viral on social media in late October, the police sought assistance from their Thai counterparts.

He was arrested by the Thai police on Nov. 6 and was handed over at Tachileik in Shan State. He is being detained at Yamethin Prison.

Gold and mineral mining and property industries have long been monopolized. Debts have risen due to low output and market decline, said U Aung Hlaing Win, a former chairman of the parliamentary committee on economic and financial development.

“Like in other countries, Myanmar has an insolvency law. Rather than imprisoning them, the government can sell their property and settle their debts,” said U Aung Hlaing Win, who is a Lower House parliamentarian.

Those declared bankrupt can no longer establish companies, stand for election or take government jobs. New insolvency legislation has been submitted to the president and is expected to be signed into law soon.

Source: The Irrawaddy

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