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Senate hearing on ASH-Cable cash dividend set for tomorrow

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Magalei Logovi’i  [SN file photo]

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Magalei Logovi’i has scheduled another hearing tomorrow so that senators can gain solid information on the cash dividend the American Samoa Government received from the American Samoa Hawaii Cable LLC (ASH-Cable), major shareholder and operator of the submarine cable connecting American Samoa to Hawaii’, with another spur connecting American Samoa to Samoa.

Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale and ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipe’a are the two witnesses being called to testify and to provide a complete detailed report on the dividend along with other pertinent information.

In a joint news release last December, ASH-Cable and ASG announced its first annual cash dividend distribution of $1.65 million to its two shareholders — majority shareholder, eLandia International and ASG, which contributed $9 million to the project and holds 33% shares.

The cash dividend was paid out after the company successfully paid off its capital loans earlier last year, according to the news release, which also states that almost all of eLandia’s share of the dividend was given to ASG to pay the company’s corporate taxes. (See Samoa News edition Dec. 8, 2017 for details).

However, there are still lingering questions as to how much in cash dividends did the ASG “actually receive” and the total actual taxes paid by eLandia, a Florida based company.

These questions were posed to Talauega during an unscheduled budget committee hearing last Friday, after the AG testified during a Senate Public Safety/ Homeland Security Committee hearing.

Talauega explained that this transaction occurred towards the end of last year, in which ASH-Cable reached a resolution for a “non-cash dividend” totaling $9 million to pay debts affiliated with eLandia including eLandia’s subsidies of Bluesky Communication and Bluesky Samoa.

The resolution also called for paying out “cash dividends”, which Talauega recalled totaled about $1.6 million in which ASG received $550,000 and eLandia received $1 million-plus, that went towards the company’s taxes to ASG for 2015 and 2016.

Talauega noted that he doesn’t have the report in front of him to provide specific answers sought by the committee.

Magalei than told the AG that the hearing will continue this week and the committee would like to receive a written report with specific numbers.

The senator pointed out that ASG invested $9 million in the project but has received a small amount of return — referring to the cash dividend. It was during last Friday’s Senate session that Magalei confirmed the hearing set for tomorrow — Tuesday.