On 23 September 2020, the Federal Administrative Court in Mexico issued a not yet published decision in a dispute between the Mexican tax authorities (SAT) and Canadian mining group First Majestic Silver Corp’s Mexican subsidiary, Primero Empresa Minera.
The court case was filed back in 2015 by the tax authorities, to cancel an Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) issued to Primero Empresa Minera back in 2012.
According to the APA, a methodology had been determined allowing the Mexican mining company to sell silver at 4.04 dollars per ounce to a group company based in Barbados (Silver Trading Barbados Ltd) via Luxembourg, when the average market price of silver was above 30 dollars. The APA was applied by Primero Empresa Minera for FY 2010 – 2014.
The Federal Court decided in favor of the tax authorities that the APA was invalid and therefore nullified.
After receiving the decision from the Federal Court, First Majestic on 25 September 2020 issued a press release stating that “the Federal Court’s decision was not arrived following regular procedures, was undertaken hastily, and did not provide opportunity for the presentation of evidence from PEM. In addition, the decision is inconsistent with previous legal precedents and violates the Federal Mexican Constitution. The Company continues to assess all of its legal options, both domestic and international including under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and will make additional updates, when necessary, on its legal plan of action.“
In a later press release dated 11 November 2020 it was announced that First Majestic intended to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court prior to the December 1, 2020 deadline.
Prior to receiving the court’s decision, First Majestic had stated that, SAT illegally chose to ignore the legal existence of an advance pricing agreement and that to address the unjustified conduct of the authorities the group would issue a notice of intent to submit a claim (notice) under the provisions of Chapter 11 of NAFTA trade agreement. This notice of intent was published in may 2020 .
According to the notice, the amount of compensation to be claimed in the arbitration proceedings has been estimated by a minimum amount of $500 million, in addition to any applicable interest, costs and expenses of the arbitration proceedings.
In a later press release from 10 March, First Majestic elaborates further on the case and background.