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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 30) – Work has resumed on the multi-million dollar Momi Bay Resort project in Fiji after a row between the developers and the Fiji Islands Customs and Revenue Authority was resolved.

[PIR editor’s note: Momi Bay is located on the southwest coast of Fiji’s Viti Levu island. Back in 2005, landowners voiced concern over how project deals were made, saying that there was little in the bargain to benefit landowners. Ratu [chief] Osea Gavidi told landowners highlighted the plight of owners of the land where the Momi Bay Resort was to be built, saying landowners were paid only US$23,820, which equated to about US$4.76 per landowner even though they were losing a rich fishing ground.]

Fiji Mariott developers yesterday confirmed work at the Momi Bay resort resumed last week, but refused to discuss the taxation issue.

Work on the project came to a halt after the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority ordered the project developers Matapo Ltd. to make an undisclosed payment, determined by an advance tax assessment.

Construction manager David Scott said the directors, who he said were out of the country, would address the question of taxation.

Fiji Islands Customs and Revenue Authority chief executive officer Tevita Banuve refused to comment.

He said how the issue of the tax assessment was resolved was a private matter. Fiji Live yesterday reported that 18,000 mainly New Zealand investors were affected by Mr. Banuve's directive that tax advancement be paid on the project.

It said the Waikato Times reported the Bridgecorp Group, one of New Zealand's leading property finance companies, said an investment hinged on interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's decision against Fiji Islands Customs and Revenue Authority.

Earlier, Banuve refused to rescind a tax bill levied on Matapo saying the interim Government was breaking the law by telling him to do that.

Following a directive from Commodore Bainimarama, interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said last week he did not have the legal power to waive tax payments to be collected by Fiji Islands Customs and Revenue Authority. The tourism industry said earlier that the tax battle had put the project in danger.

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