- The Mozambican branch of the soft drinks company Coca-Cola has threatened to take the country's largest bank, International Bank of Mozambique (BIM), to court, in order to recover some 12 billion meticais (600,000 US dollars at current exchange rates) fraudulently removed from Coca-Cola accounts.
According to Coca-Cola manager Soren Hansen, interviewed in the latest issue of the independent weekly 'Savana', last August the company was surprised by a note from the Finance Ministry, fining it for non-payment of taxes. The unpaid taxes were from the months of May, June and July, and amounted to 12 billion meticais.
Mr Hansen said the company informed the Mozambican Finance Ministry that the taxes had been paid, and could present copies of cheques and receipts which seemed to prove this.
After investigating these documents, the Finance Ministry however informed Coca-Cola that in reality the cheques had never been deposited in its account. In other words, the money had been removed from the Coca-Cola account at BIM, but had not been deposited in the Finance Ministry's account.
Coca-Cola contacted the BIM management, with proof that the money had indeed been taken from the company's account. Mr Hansen now accuses BIM of negligence in its internal procedures, which allowed the fraud to take place.
In November 2004, a Coca-Cola annual general meeting instructed the company management to enter into negotiations with BIM to seek an amicable solution. But Mr Hansen says that several meetings with the bank have had no result. "The BIM Board of Directors has always displayed arrogance," he alleged. "It is because of the bad faith shown by the bank that we have decided to go to court."
The aim of the lawsuit, Mr Hansen added, is to recover all the money taken from the Coca-Cola account, plus interest and legal costs. "Over the past 25 years, I've been a senior manager in several parts of the world, and I must say I have never before encountered a company or institution as arrogant as BIM," he said.
Coca-Cola had been depositing two to three billion meticais a day in its BIM account. 17 percent of this was supposed to be passed on to the Finance Ministry in payment of Value Added Tax (VAT).
Now, as a result of this dispute, Coca-Cola is closing its BIM accounts. Furthermore it will suggest that all its partners and distributors should also close any accounts they may have with BIM, since Coca-Cola will no longer accept any BIM cheques.
'Savana' says that BIM also faces problems with the publicly owned electricity company, EDM, which suffered a similar theft in 2002. Then four million South African rands (about 670,000 US dollars, at today's exchange rates) disappeared from the EDM account held at BIM.
EDM has had several meetings with BIM and with the central bank, so far to no avail, and a lawyer hired by EDM has been following the matter since 2003.
Other institutions whose BIM accounts have been raided include the Mozambican customs service, and the MOZAL aluminium smelter, the independent newspaper claims.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.