October 17, 2018 / 5:16 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Tanzania charges Acacia subsidiaries with tax evasion, corruption

(Updates Oct. 17 story with details of charge sheet)

LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Tanzanian authorities have charged three of Acacia Mining’s local subsidiaries, an employee and a former staffer for money laundering and tax evasion, the gold miner said on Wednesday.

Acacia Mining said all the accused had pleaded not guilty to all 39 charges, which include tax evasion, conspiracy, a charge under organised crime legislation, forgery, money laundering and corruption, the London-listed company said in a statement.

Acacia, which is Tanzania’s largest gold miner, is locked in a long-running dispute with the government which has accused the company of tax evasion. Acacia has denied any wrongdoing.

The charge sheet, seen by Reuters on Thursday, said the Acacia units and the co-accused made illegal transactions ranging from $1.5 million to $752 million per payment between April 2008 and July 2018.

In one transaction, $719 million was transferred into the account of a government official, the charge sheet stated.

Acacia declined to comment on the charge sheet on Thursday.

After taking office in 2015, President John Magufuli launched an anti-corruption drive and vowed to stamp out tax evasion by multinational companies in Tanzania’s mining and telecoms sectors.

Tanzanian authorities were not available for immediate comment.

The three Acacia subsidiaries charged are Pangea Minerals Limited (PML), Bulyanhulu Gold Mine Limited (BGML) and North Mara Gold Mine Limited (NMGML).

“The majority of the 39 charges and allegations ... appear to relate to the historical structuring and financing of PML, BGML and NMGML dating back as far as 2008, prior to the creation of the Acacia Group at the time of its initial public offering in 2010,” Acacia said in the statement on Wednesday.

The two people arrested were not released on bail as offences against the anti-money laundering act are not eligible.

Tanzania’s anti-corruption authority was quoted by local media as saying the arrests were as part of “ongoing investigation into natural resources exploitation” and “war that the government is waging in the minerals sector”, Acacia said in an earlier statement on Wednesday.

Acacia said last week that a South African employee at its North Mara mine in Tanzania had been charged with corruption, but had pleaded not guilty and was released on bail.

The dispute between the Tanzanian government and Acacia culminated in a $190 billion tax charge in July 2017 against the miner and an industry-wide ban on the export of raw minerals in March of the same year.

These issues are at the centre of ongoing negotiations between Acacia parent Barrick Gold and the Tanzanian government.

Shares in Acacia have slumped over 60 percent since the export ban was installed in March 2017, and inched 0.8 percent lower, mostly in line with its London peers on Thursday.

“Acacia’s 19-month dispute with the (government) may now be entering a more volatile phase which could create more headline risk for shares,” said James Bell, an analyst to RBC Capital Markets. (Reporting by Nuzulack J. Dausen in Dar Es Salaam, Zandi Shabalala in London and Duncan Miriri in Nairobi; editing by Jason Neely, Jane Merriman and David Evans)

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