BELMOPAN, Belize, June 26, 2008 – Belize Telemedia Limited has been ordered by the court to pay the government millions of dollars in outstanding business taxes despite the company’s claim that the previous administration had given it permission not to pay the monies in certain circumstances.
The government had taken Telemedia to court after the telecommunications company insisted that it had signed an Accommodation Agreement in 2005 with the Said Musa administration which entitles it to withhold taxes when it does not make its guaranteed 15 per cent rate of return.
Magistrate Edd Usher however ordered on Tuesday that Telemedia and its related companies, DigiCell and Belize Enterprise Systems Limited, pay just over BEL$4.66 million in taxes owed for February and March. Half of that must be paid by July 1, while the remainder is due a week later. The Income Tax Commissioner has already served notices on the company for payment of a similar amount for April and May.
Telemedia’s attorney Eamon Courtenay had argued that while his clients do not dispute the payment of the taxes, it was simply operating under the terms of the contract signed with Musa’s government.
“Telemedia has always paid its taxes and will continue to pay the taxes. The question is where you have this dispute, if you pay would you be waiving your rights? How do you maintain your position without prejudicing your position, but still pay?” he said. “If there is a court order that we pay, the company has to pay and therefore it cannot be taken as waiving your right because the court ordered it.”
The company has engaged the London Court of Arbitration in an effort to pursue what it says it its legitimate right.