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Lawyers deny safari firm director roles

Two Bermuda lawyers yesterday said they had never been nominee directors of a safari firm at the centre of a row over tax avoidance in Botswana.

Cox Hallett Wilkinson lawyers Ernest Morrison and David Cooper were reported to be nominee directors of Bermuda-based Wilderness Safaris Ltd in an article in The Botswana Gazette.

The Bermuda company is a subsidiary of Wilderness Safari Group, which is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange.

But Mr Morrison said the two had only “been engaged in the formation of the company and have never been nominee directors”.

The Botswana Gazette said that, according to the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Mr Morrison and Mr Cooper are both nominee directors of the Bermuda-based Wilderness Safaris Ltd, which was set up in 1995 and is listed on the Bermuda Register of Companies.

But Mr Morrison said: “I'm guessing they have got their hands on the memorandum of association from the Register of Companies. The names of nominees appear on this document. It means nothing more than that.”

“A search of the company's directors and officers register will indicate the current directors.”

Mr Morrison spoke out after Bermuda was linked to a tax row in Botswana involving Ian Khama, the country's president.

It is claimed that the multinational Wilderness Safaris Group, which operates across southern Africa and includes Mr Khama as an investor, has used a subsidiary in Bermuda to cut its tax bill in Botswana.

Figures show that a Wilderness Safaris company, Wilderness Tours Ltd, moved more than $2.7 million, P29.5 million in the Botswana currency, the pula, to the Bermuda-based Wilderness Safaris Ltd in 2009, which was described as an interest-free loan, with no set repayment terms and unsecured to exploit a legal tax loophole.

Mr Khama, his lawyer Parks Tafa and the director general of Botswana's Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Isaac Kgosi are all connected to the Wilderness Safaris Group, one of the richest firms listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, according to The Botswana Gazette.

The newspaper added: “Within subsidiaries, an interest-free, inter-company loan keeps the taxman away since tax is deducted from profit of interests made at repayment. The thing about this loan is that it can also not be repaid since it has no security bond to it. An analyst says this could provide a loophole which could be used to hide untaxed profits.”

Not a Wilderness director: Ernest Morrison of Cox Hallett Wilkinson

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Published December 09, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 08, 2015 at 11:37 pm)

Lawyers deny safari firm director roles

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