Home Economy ‘Refundable Gesture of Goodwill’… HPX Clarifies US$37m Payment Issue; Clears Samuel Tweah

‘Refundable Gesture of Goodwill’… HPX Clarifies US$37m Payment Issue; Clears Samuel Tweah

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By: Frank P Martin

MONROVIA: An American Company, High Power Exploration (HPX), has described its payment of whooping US$37 million into the Liberian Government’s Revenue Account at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), between December 2019 and March 2022 as “a refundable gesture of goodwill.”

The Government of Liberia (GOL), and HPX Group subsidiaries Ivanhoe Liberia and SMFG entered into a Framework Agreement on 20, December, 2019, to set forth negotiation of an agreement to secure sufficient rail and port infrastructure in the Yekepa-Buchanan rail and port corridor to be able to evacuate iron ore from HPX’s Guinean-Nimba Iron Ore Project.

The Framework Agreement, as amended, was announced publicly and received strong support from the Government of Liberia, according to HPX’s statement issued on Tuesday, December 19, 2023.
Since 2019, the HPX has continued to negotiate with the Government of Liberia on terms and payments that would be payable to the Government of Liberia once the final agreement is signed, the statement added.

HPX, an American company, pointed out that the Framework Agreement merely committed the parties to engage in good faith negotiations of a concession agreement on terms that would then provide access to government-owned rail and port infrastructure.

According to the HPX statement, “it was not an agreement for the actual use of those assets, and it did not require ratification under Liberian law.”
The company clarified that the payment of the USS$37m was done through the United States Government’s Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

It further explained that HPX agreed, as “a gesture of goodwill, to make refundable advance payments” to the Government of Liberia at its official request of some of the anticipated fees and taxes that would be due and payable to Liberia if and when a binding concession agreement came into force.

If none did, the statement added, these advance payments would be refundable to the HPX Group.

“These advance payments, which were paid into the Government of Liberia Revenue Account at the Central Bank of Liberia, consisted of US$7 million in December 2019 and US$30 million in March 2022,” the company disclosed.

“The advance payments are refundable if certain milestones relating to the negotiation and implementation of the concession agreement are not met.”

As it stands today, the statement indicated that several of these milestones have been missed and the HPX Group has reserved its rights to seek refund of the upfront payments.

It detailed that the HPX remains committed to the development of a world-class infrastructure corridor, owned by the Government of Liberia, and operated under the principles of non-discriminatory, multi-user access with each participant to meet responsible access charges, under the oversight of an independent operator not linked to mining operators.
HPX says it remains committed to supporting the Government of Liberia to achieve this vision and welcomes full transparency of all transactions and dealings between the Liberian Government mining companies and other concessionaires.
“As a US Company, HPX, and its directors and management remain committed to and strongly embrace the highest standards of ethical behavior that are in line with community and government expectations not only in Liberia but internationally and are subject to and committed to fully complying with the laws of Liberia, the United States of America and other jurisdictions governing all such transactions,” the statement asserted.
HPX’s clarifications, followed US Department of Treasury’s sanctioning of Liberia’s Finance and development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah, who categorically denied allegations of involvement in significant corruption including acts of bribery.
Tweah denied any wrong doing and described the US government’s sanctions as unfair.
“I have never influenced legislative processes” whatever that implies’, Tweah added.
Tweah: Specific reference to the mining sector confuses me but I believe this reference pertains to my involvement to developing a multi-user gateway through the third amendment of ArcelorMittal’s current concession and through granting rail access to HPX, an American company looking to transport rail from Guinea through Liberia.”

Addressing a recent press conference, Minister Tweah narrated that about a year ago in Washington D.C. he received hints that persons connected with an American company, High Power Explorations Inc. (HPX) were trying to get him on Treasury sanctions because he was allegedly or supposedly “favoring AccelorMittal Limited (AML) over HPX, and preventing HPX from accessing the rail to conduct its investment in Guinea through Liberia.
“My informant knew this was unjust and unfair, knowing the role I was playing on the Inter-ministerial Concessions Committee and understanding the difficulties and complexities of the negotiation. I was also informed that persons close to HPX were considering sanctions against me because the company had paid US$ 37 million to the Government of Liberia through the national budget since 2019 and was yet to have an agreement with the Government,” he said.
According to the Liberian Finance Minister, “Legitimate monies received by the Government of Liberia for the development of Liberia through the national budget is never a bribe.”
“That an agreement has been difficult to reach because of complexity surrounding a pre-existing agreement is no reason to threaten government officials with sanction.
“I was advised that to avoid sanction, I should withdraw my support for ArcelorMittal third amendment until after the election. It was on this basis that I advised President Weah to turn over negotiations on the rail to the U.S. Government since too much propaganda and misinformation were threatening to destroy members of his government.
“The president obliged and the Americans for a brief moment tried to bring both HPX and ArcelorMittal together to reach some understanding on the multi-user rail system.
“Meetings were held in London and Washington. Unfortunately, these meetings did not achieve anything, and the Americans withdrew and turned negotiations back to the Government of Liberia,” he averred.

Tweah: “The truth of the matter is that ArcelorMittal has an agreement with the Government of Liberia signed by the Unity Party Government that gives ArcelorMittal the right to use the Nimba rail and to be an operator of this rail. In the government’s vision to develop a multiuser rail system, we have tried to have ArcelorMittal relinquish operatorship of the rail to an Independent third-party rail operator for purposes of fairness and equity.”

He noted that ArcelorMittal has not been open to this position, and they, the government, have been at a deadlock in the negotiations for more than three years.
Tweah: “Realizing the impossibility of having ArcelorMittal give up rail operatorship, and knowing the Government was not willing to proceed to international arbitration, the Government moved to a position of having Mittal become the User-Operator in exchange for other critical rights Mittal would have to give up under its current concession that would enable fair and equitable access to third parties such as HPX.”
He narrated that he would have enabled the parties to reach a compromise, noting unfortunately, that HPX did not seem open to such a compromise and had insisted that Mittal abandons the rail operatorship.
“Mittal itself does not want to give up rail operatorship. As a consequence, Samuel Tweah became the biggest victim in this power play between two billionaires, each of whom aims to undo and outmaneuver the other,” the Liberian Finance Minister told a crowded news conference recently.

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