Liberian mobile operator Lonestar Cell-MTN, a majority owned unit of MTN Group South Africa, has lost its two-year court case with the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) concerning unpaid taxes. Local press reports say that following Tax Court Judge Mozart Chesson’s ruling last Wednesday, the mobile operator must now pay the USD19.2 million it owes directly into the government’s coffers. The final court case on the dispute comes after both sides rejected an earlier decision by the Board of Tax Appeal (BOTA) which ruled that Lonestar Cell-MTN pay USD1.9 million. While the cellco disputed the ruling on the grounds it believed it owed no taxes, the LRA was insistent that the dues owed were in fact USD19.2 million. Lonestar Cell-MTN has said it will lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court of Liberia.
The mobile operator is having a troubled year. Earlier this month CommsUpdate reported that it had been accused of attempting to use political manoeuvring to counter the threat of rising competition from the likes of Cellcom Liberia and Novafone, and in February it fell foul of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) over allegations it was illegally receiving broadband data capacity from Cote d’Ivoire. The MTN Group-owned unit emphatically denied the accusation which related to a supposed re-commissioning of a telecommunications dish located in Toe Town, Grand Gedeh County.