Laurent Gbagbo, the internationally recognized loser of a November 2010 presidential election in the Ivory Coast who has refused to step down, is reportedly on the brink of escalating the standoff in the nation that is the world's top producer of cocoa.
After Alassane Ouattara, who was declared the race's victor, severed the flow of taxes on the commodity to Gbagbo in January as a method of forcing his departure, stockpiles of cocoa have moldered in warehouses and not been exported. Gbagbo ordered the exporters to pay taxes by the end of March and now exporters believe he will confiscate the stockpiles whose financial value is $1.3 billion.
One trading house's chief executive officer told the Financial Times his firm will pay export taxes if Gbagbo remains empowered.
"If the local government who is in charge tells us to pay the taxes, we will pay the taxes," Ricardo Leiman of Hong Kong-based Noble Group, told the publication. "We abide by local law and international law."
The group later noted legal advice would guide its policy.
But other companies have drawn the line, as per an unspoken agreement.
"We will not pay," a European executive told the publication. "No way."
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