Botha lays out path forward on diamond factory tax dispute

A worker displays a diamond being cut at Embee Diamonds, at 1203 Central Avenue. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

A dispute involving a city councillor, a diamond factory and a $176,046 debt will be heard by a provincial mediator Friday, as Embee Diamonds fights an eviction notice.

Councillor Evert Botha, the chief operating officer of Embee Diamonds, said he’s on the verge of clutching an investment deal that could save the business.

Located at 1203 Central Avenue, the diamond cutting facility was in the hands of MFN & Mb Holdings Inc. until February, when the city took possession to settle back taxes and penalties. Up to that point, Embee Diamonds leased the building from MFN & Mb, in which they held a 40 per cent stake.

Botha said the company received an eviction notice from the city at the end of February, instructing them to vacate the premises by March 31.

“We received a notice from the city, which we referred to our lawyer, along with the reasons you can’t simply uplift a factory and move it out of this building,” he said. “There are very few properties in town that can accommodate all our equipment.”

That led to a meeting with City Manager Jim Toye in mid-March. And more wrangling is set to follow. Friday, Botha said, his legal counsel will hold a conference call with city lawyers, with a representative of the provincial mediation board listening in. He hopes they can come to an understanding that allows Embee Diamonds to stay in the building.

He said the company has a plan to pay back the $176,046, as well as any outstanding legal fees, and reclaim the property.

“The city will get its money,” Botha said.

The plan revolves around a foreign entity that, according to Botha, has already agreed to invest enough money to buy back the building, pay off the mortgage and restructure the business.

For more on this story, see the April 7 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.