Noble Suspended From Argentine Grain Register on Tax Probe

Noble Group Ltd., Asia’s biggest listed commodity supplier, was suspended from Argentina’s Grains Register for an investigation into unpaid taxes, a local tax agency official said.

Noble, based in Hong Kong, was removed from the register because of an undisclosed amount of false invoices and potential use of third-party accounts, the official, who asked not to be identified citing the agency’s communications policy, told reporters today in Buenos Aires. While suspended, Noble must pay a tax rate of 25 percent to export grain, up from a previous 10 percent, the tax official said.

“We are in business as usual,” Noble Argentine unit President Alfonso Romero said in a telephone interview from Buenos Aires. “We read about the suspension in the official gazette and we have no comments to make as we are buying grains and exporting grain as we do in any other business day.”

Argentina’s tax agency, known as AFIP, last year said four of the South American country’s 10 biggest exporters and grain and soybean processors underpaid taxes and it would pursue full repayment. The suspension was cited in Argentina’s official gazette earlier today.

Monsanto, Bunge

Romero declined to say if Noble will appeal or if there are any additional implications for the company.

Noble exports between 4 million and 5 million metric tons of grain from Argentina annually, Romero said. The country’s total grain production was 90.9 million tons for the 2011/2012 season, according to the latest Agricultural Ministry report.

Noble follows Bunge Ltd. and Monsanto Co., both which were suspended from the register last year.

Bunge, Argentina’s second-biggest exporter, was suspended on Oct. 1 and excluded on Oct. 26 because of unpaid income taxes since 2006. Bunge remains suspended from the register, the AFIP official said today.

Susan Burns, a Bunge spokeswoman at company headquarters in White Plains, New York, didn’t reply to a phone call or an e-mail seeking comment.

Monsanto, which was removed in February for unpaid taxes of 40 million pesos ($8.5 million), returned to the register after it paid in August. Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company, sells corn seed in Argentina.

Argentina is the world’s largest exporter of soy oil, the second-largest of corn and third of soybeans.

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