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Uzbek Court Declares U.S.-Uzbek Joint Venture Bankrupt

(RFE/RL) October 2, 2006 -- A regional court has declared the Zarafshan-Newmont gold-mining joint venture bankrupt and given it three months to cease operations, local news agencies report.

The pro-government information website quotes an unidentified official with Uzbekistan's Higher Economic Court as saying the decision was reached on September 29 in western Nawaiy region.

Zarafshan-Newmont is co-owned by the Colorado-headquartered Newmont Mining Corporation, one of the world's leading gold producers.

The company has been operating a large open-pit gold mine in Uzbekistan's Qizilqum Desert, 400 kilometers west of Tashkent.

Bankruptcy proceedings against Zarafshan-Newmont were initiated in August at the request of Uzbekistan's main tax collection office, which claims the joint venture owes the state some $48 million in tax arrears and fines.

Newmont denies the claims.

In other news, the Tashkent Economic Court also announced today it had launched legal proceedings against a U.S. charity at the request of Uzbekistan's financial authorities. quoted an unidentified court official as saying hearings against Mercy Corps International will likely start later this week.

Tax authorities in Tashkent's Yakkasarai district accuse the U.S. humanitarian organization of tax evasion.

They say Mercy Corps International's representatives in the eastern Ferghana region have failed to declare revenues worth nearly $560,000.

Mercy Corps is a nonprofit organization that provides various forms of assistance through grants and donations. It has its headquarters in Portland, Oregon.


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