Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary for Finance and Treasury, Mr Shadrach Fanega, today refutes the Malaita Ma'asina Forum's allegations that the Customs and Excise Division has failed to monitor gold exports by the Gold Ridge Mining Limited.

He also described the call for the Deputy Comptroller of Customs who is an in-line RAMSI officer to stand down for allegedly failing to uphold Solomon Islands customs laws and regulations in relation to this matter, as unwarranted and uncalled for.

Mr Fanega indicated that there is no evidence to support the allegations that have been made.

Mr Fanega said that he had every confidence that the Comptroller of Customs and the Deputy Comptroller of Customs had carried out their duties professionally and well in relation to this matter in accordance with customs laws and regulations.

Permanent Secretary Fanega said that the gold duties paid by the Gold Ridge Mining Limited are up to date and have been made in accordance with the law. He said that there is no outstanding duties payable by the Gold Ridge Mining Limited.

Mr Fanega stated that exports from Gold Ridge Limited are being closely monitored and verified through proper audit processes.

Mr Fanega said that Customs is only responsible for the collection of duties, while the royalties associated with gold mining are collected by the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI). There appears to have been some confusion over this matter by some groups.

Mr Fanega also stated that calls for a Commission of Inquiry into the operations of Gold Ridge Mining Limited are baseless and unwarranted. He said that calls for a halting of production/exports at the mine would lead to a substantial loss of employment and a significant fall in Government revenue for no apparent reason.

Permanent Secretary Fanega concluded by saying reports and research conducted by groups without proper verification and due diligence with relevant authorities have no credibility and integrity.

Source: Press Release, Government Communication Unit