(JollofNews) – The managing director of the Gambia’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Observer, has admitted that his company has not paid tax on its profits since 2001.

Pa Modou Mbowe said his company is owing about D17 million to the Gambia Revenue Authority and tens of thousands of Dalasis to other businesses.

The newspaper was Wednesday ordered to temporally cease publication by the revenue authorities pending the settlement of its huge tax bill.

But Mr Mbowe said while he was not surprise that the newspaper was shut down, he was shock that it has taken the revenue authorities this long to take action.

He questioned why authorities had allowed the newspaper’s tax bill to balloon up since 2001 to such a colossal amount.

He added that since he assumed office in December 2016, he has been in contact with the revenue authorities about the debt but the newspaper was unable to honour the repayment plan due to financial constraints.

Mr Mbowe said prior to the closure of the newspaper, he had received a letter from the revenue authorities about a week ago ordering them to temporarily cease operation as a result of the unpaid debt.

In response to the order, Mr Mbowe said the newspaper wrote to the revenue authorities asking them to use the D170,000 they owed the newspaper from daily subscriptions and advertisements as part of the payment for the debt.

He added that they also offered a one -year front page advertisement for the revenue authority estimated at D1 million to cover some of the debt.

“We made this offer to them since January but they just laughed at us,” he said in an interview with West Africa Democracy Radio.

Commenting on the ownership of the newspaper, Mr Mbowe said while he was appointed to  manage the newspaper by former President Yahya Jammeh, he don’t know the true owner of the newspaper.

He added the owner of the newspaper was not making a profit from it. He said whatever the newspaper earned from sales, subscriptions and advertisement was used to pay salaries for staff buy newsprints amongst other things.

Describing the newspaper as an institution where many high-profile Gambians have learned their trade, Mr Mbowe said he will do all he could to bring it back to the newstand.