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Press Release: Lonmin, the Marikana Massacre and the Bermuda Connection

1. On June 2 AIDC issued a press statement in which we raised the concern of the Platinum Cartel’s possible involvement in transfer pricing in respect of under-selling their metals.

2. Our concerns regarding Lonmin’s involvement in possible transfer pricing is greater than ever. Tuesday hearings of the Marikana Commission showed that Lonmin needs to clarify the role and relationship of several of its subsidiaries, not least Lonmin PLC (the parent company), Western Platinum Ltd, Eastern Platinum Ltd, Lonmin Management Services (PTY) Ltd and Western Metals Sales Limited, located in the tax haven of Bermuda.

3. Contradictory answers have been provided both to the Marikana Commission and to journalists in relation to revelations made.

4. In sum, Lonmin, just for the years 2008 to 2012 transferred in commission fees $160 million (R1,231 billion) to a Lonmin subsidiary, Western Metals Sales Limited based in Bermuda, a well known tax haven. A further $155 million (R1,170 billion) was paid in management fees to Lonmin Management Services.

5. These amounts were shifted from Lonmin’s South African operations and effectively put out of reach of possible wage demands, meetings of its social labour plan commitments and beyond what would have been “taxable income”. It is necessary to ask is if this a case of the so-called “illicit financial flows” that has so worried African heads of state and prompted the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU) to establish the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows.

6. Lonmin’s Bermuda connection is one piece in a complex inter-company labyrinth and picture of excessive dividend payments before the 2008 crash, exorbitant executive salaries as well as yearly management fees to head offices.

7. This is an important part of the background to the August 16 Marikana massacre and shaped Lonmin’s response to the wage demands of rock drill operators and other workers at its operations.

8. That Lonmin has something to hide became clear in the last days of evidence at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. When questioned on these transfers and the relations between Lonmin, its South African subsidiaries and its overseas subsidiaries, its Executive Director, Mr M Seedat seemed to suffer from severe memory loss and could only provide general information that was contradictory. Nevertheless, he was forced to admit in reference to the Lonmin subsidiary in Bermuda, Western Metal Sales Limited, that “A structure like this is normally set up to be optimal from a tax perspective.”

9. Further to this, Mr Seedat told the Commission that the “Bermuda operation” was closed in 2008, yet financial reports audited by the international firm KPMG, records the flow of money to Bermuda up until 2012. A decision was made by Lonmin to rewrite its business history in June 2012 in relation to these payments and retrospectively decree (in June 2012) the closure of Western Metals Sales Limited in 2008.

10. A research report on the issue of Lonmin’s affordability will soon be lodged at the Marikana Commission.

11. Perhaps it is legal to rewrite a company’s financial history without a comment in the audited books, however, AIDC calls on SARS and the South African government to urgently establish a major and detailed investigation into Lonmin’s financial operations and more generally into other mining transnational corporations and the problem of transfer pricing, illicit financial flows that also may be contributing to South Africa’s worsening capital account deficit and balance of payment problems.

For more information also read this article:

For further information, contact Dick Forslund (+ 27 828 957 947), senior economist at the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), Brian Ashley (+27 820857088), Director at AIDC, MP Giyose (+27 823500361), Chair of the AIDC board.

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