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Por Abhirup Roy y Aditya Kalra

BOMBAY, Apr 4 (Reuters) – The Chinese company ByteDance has declared in an Indian court that the freezing of its bank accounts by the government, as part of an investigation for possible tax evasion, constitutes harassment and has been done illegally. according to a statement accessed by Reuters.

ByteDance cut its Indian workforce in January after New Delhi upheld a ban on the popular video app TikTok – owned by ByteDance – imposed last year after a border clash between India and China. Beijing has repeatedly criticized India for that ban and those of other Chinese apps.

In mid-March, an Indian tax intelligence division ordered HSBC and Citibank Bombay to freeze ByteDance India’s accounts as it was investigating some of the unit’s financial operations. ByteDance has challenged the freezing of the four accounts in a Mumbai court.

None of ByteDance India’s employees have received their March salaries due to the accounts freeze, two people familiar with the matter said. The company told the court that it has a staff of 1,335 workers, including outsourced personnel.

In the 209-page court file filed on March 25, ByteDance told the Bombay High Court that the authorities acted against the company without any material evidence and did not give prior notice, as required by Indian law, before taking such “drastic action. “.

Locking accounts “during the investigation process amounts to applying undue duress,” argued ByteDance. The intention is to “unduly harass the petitioner.”

India’s Directorate General of Tax Intelligence for Goods and Services, and the Finance Ministry it reports to, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters over the weekend.

Until now, no information had been published in the media about the details of the tax investigation. The tax agency told ByteDance last year that it had reason to believe the company suppressed certain transactions and claimed excessive tax credits, according to the filing.

ByteDance declined to comment on its court statement, but told Reuters on Tuesday that it disagrees with the tax authority’s decision. HSBC declined to comment, while Citibank did not respond.

(Information from Abhirup Roy in Bombay and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; edited by William Mallard, translated by Tomás Cobos)

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