Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) confirmed that it has received no formal notification about a travel ban on its current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nassef Sawiris and former Chairman Onsi Sawiris pending confirmation of allegations of tax evasion in Egypt, through a press release issued on Monday.
The statement came in response to articles published by several websites commenting on recent statements from several identified and unidentified sources within the Egyptian government.
The Middle East News Agency (MENA) said on Sunday that a judicial source had said the Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah decided to put both Onsi Sawiris, chairman of OCI, and Nassef Sawiris, the CEO of the company, on the travel ban and access entry lists.
The source clarified, according to MENA, that the prosecutor general’s decision came in light of a request by Minister of Finance Al-Morsi Hegazy to the public prosecution to open a case and investigate the alleged accusations of evading EGP 14bn in taxes on a Lafarge deal that achieved EGP 68bn in profits.
In its press release, the company clarified that the Egyptian Tax Authority (ETA) has submitted a tax claim to the company to pay EGP 4.7bn related to the sale of Orascom Building Materials Holding (OBMH) to Lafarge SA in 2007 and that, to date, the company has received no additional claims with any different tax liability related to the sale.
The company said in accordance with Paragraph 8 of article No 50 of Law No 91 of 2005, that all capital gains resulting from the sale of shares listed on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) are tax exempt. Consequently the sale of OBMH to Lafarge SA in 2007 is exempt of any capital gains tax.
On 13 January 2013, and in accordance with the aforementioned law, the company filed an appeal with ETA’s Appeal Committee challenging the claim in Tax Form 19. Such an appeal is permitted under Article No. 119 of Law No. 91 of 2005. At present, the appeal is under review by the committee.
OCI confirmed that it was confident of its tax position and that it did not violate any laws pertaining to the sale.
The company said it was presently awaiting the Egyptian Tax Authority’s Appeal Committee’s final decision and that it will publish updates in due course.
The head of the Free Egyptians Party, Ahmed Saeed, criticised the travel ban decision saying it constituted “political revenge” against opposition figures.
In his statement, Saeed wondered how a tax can be imposed on an operation that took place five years ago and after issuing a new tax law, and how someone can be banned from travelling while filing an appeal challenging the tax evasion claim, with no final verdict regarding this issued yet.
News of the travel ban drove the stock market’s main indicators down; the EGX30 fell by more than 126 points hovering under the 5,400 points level in Monday’s session.