By Omar Bah
The Gambia Revenue Authority has shut down the Kanifing office complex of Semlex for failing to pay tax since establishment two years ago.
The Belgian company and its Gambian subsidiary have been contracted by The Gambia government to produce the national ID cards and driver’s licences.
Yankuba Darboe, the commissioner general of the GRA defended the closure at a press conference yesterday, arguing that paying tax is an obligation and that Semlex has “pushed [them] to the wall”.
However, despite repeated questions from journalists, CG Darboe and the top GRA brass refused to disclose Semlex’s tax liabilities, citing “tax payer confidentiality”.
He explained: “The impression they gave us was that they will have a Special Investment Certificate that will exempt them from paying corporate and other taxes… We gave them extension after extension but up to this period, they could not provide us with the SIC.
“As far as we know in this country, it is only the president who can exempt a certain individual or business from paying tax. Other than that, you have to get the Special Investment Certificate which is a duty wavier.
“They have really pushed us to the wall. They have to respect the law. Nobody is above the law. We told them as they could not get an SIC, they should come forward and pay. We cannot continue with extensions and I believe, now it’s time to take action because we know that there is a law in the country and nobody is above the law and we should all respect the law,” he argued.
He said Semlex might in fact have failed to meet all the criteria to be given the Special Investment Certificate.
“If they had met the criteria, they would have got the certificate a long time ago,” he said.
He said the best thing Semlex could do is to settle its taxes or come up with a payment plan.
Meanwhile, Essa Jallow, the assistant commissioner general, pointed out that Semlex was not giving charity to Gambians. “They are here because they feel their investment will give them something. Before they came here, we were getting our documents from another company. So, they are here for their own interest.”
At the end of the presser, the permanent secretary at the Ministry for the Interior, the director general of immigration and officials from Semlex met with the GRA heads to chart a way out of the debacle.