International edition
June 24, 2021

Macau-based firm Sanum Investments

Foreign investor decries treatment in Laos

(Macau / Laos).- A Macau-based company embroiled in a court battle with Laos says the government is planning to seize its last remaining asset in the country. Sanum Investments, which is behind several hotel and casino projects, took legal action against the Laotian government in August for allegedly misusing us$ 400 million intended for investment.

T


he company accused the government of issuing a retroactive us$ 23 million tax bill and arbitrarily revoking licences and concessions worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Sanum's president Jody Jordahl told Radio Australia's Connect Asia he believes the Savan Vegas Casino, the country's third largest employer, is now under attack.

"The Ministry of Finance and the tax department have filed and submitted a request through the courts to force us to pay those improper taxes," he said. "It's my understanding through the audit and tax law that the process will involve shutting down the club for 30 days. If we don't pay those improper taxes within 30 days, then they can quickly move to seize that property and liquidate it to pay those improper back taxes."

Jordahl says this latest move is proof Laos' judiciary is not "free and fair". He says repeated attempts to get in touch with the government to enter negotiations have failed.

"As far as the ICFID or someone else issuing an injunction of some sort, I don't think that's going to be possible in the amount of time that we have left," he said. "What we're hearing from some of our sources is that the closure or seizure could happen any day."

Jordahl says Sanum now has no choice but to wait for the outcome of the arbitration trial set to be heard by the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, an independent arm of the World Bank. "If it (the casino) is seized we continue to work with the government, file objections and there will supposedly be a court process," he said. "We hope that at that court hearing we get a fair hearing."

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