Duties unpaid by Niko for eight yearsShakhawat Hossain
The National Board of Revenue could not realise duties from the Niko Bangladesh against the import of machinery and chemicals for gas exploration at Chatak in Sylhet.
Revenue officials said the Canada-based energy company had refused to pay the duties saying that the imported machinery and chemicals had been destroyed in the two blow-outs. The matter has remained unresolved for eight years.
Niko Bangladesh’s country manger Grant Harms in a letter sent recently to the finance ministry said that the company had lost drilling rigs, materials, drilling support equipment and supplies that had been imported to Bangladesh on a re-exportable basis.
But the materials and equipment were destroyed in the fire and sank up to 800-840 metres underground where they remained when the blow-outs happened on January 7, 2005 and June 25, 2005, he said.
NBR officials, however, said that argument of Niko Bangladesh was not acceptable as the blow-outs had resulted from faults and the negligence of the company.
The National Board of Revenue chairman, Ghulam Hussain, told New Age on Saturday that measures had already been taken to realise the duties, which would amount to several million dollars.
Since 2007, the revenue board has set up two committees which recommended the realisation of duties, he said.
The committees established that the four drill bits claimed to have been lost in he hole should not have been in operation at the same time and it was not credible that all of them had been be lost during the blow-outs.
The drill stem test equipment claimed to have been lost in the hole may not have been near the drilling rig during the drilling at all and it was not credible that the equipment was lost during the blow-out, the NBR investigation report said.
The report said that there was no documentary evidence in support of the drilling fluid being lost in the hole.
But Niko Bangladesh is still mounting pressure for duty exemption saying that the NBR report was not acceptable.
Grant Harms in his letter said whether the blow-outs had resulted from the fault or negligence of Niko Bangladesh was a matter of litigation.
Niko in 2009 filed two complaints with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes against the two state-run organisations of Bangladesh and the republic of Bangladesh.
One of the complaints said that Petrobangla was not paying bills to Niko for the gas supplied from the Feni field and the other complaint was whether Petrobangla could realise compensation for the damage caused by the explosion in the Chhatak gas field in Sylhet.
In 2008, Petrobangla filed a case with a local court against Niko claiming $106 million in compensation for the damage caused by two explosions in a span of five months in the Chhatak field for the negligence and inefficiency of Niko.
Earlier in 2006, the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers’ Association filed a public interest litigation against Niko and subsequently obtained an injunction that stopped Petrobangla from paying gas bills to the company until the compensation issue was settled.
Petrobangla had halted $35 million in payment of gas bill to Niko before the Canadian firm stopped gas production from the Feni field in May 2010.
The ICSID in the past week said that it could not make Bangladesh a respondent to the arbitration over the complaints filed by Niko as it had no jurisdiction over the state.
The Petrobangla chairman, Hossain Monsur, said that the ICSID ruling was a ‘victory’ for them.
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