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Congo seals Vodacom offices over tax dispute

FILE PHOTO: A shopper walks past a Vodacom shop in Johannesburg

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo authorities have sealed the offices and seized the accounts of the local branch of South Africa's Vodacom over a tax dispute, the company said in a statement.

"On December 6 and 7, 2022, agents of the General Directorate of Taxes (DGI) presented themselves at our technical, commercial and administrative offices and proceeded with the installation of seals," Vodacom said in a statement dated Dec 8.

The dispute relates to a tax audit for the period 2016-2019 by the DGI, which resulted in an adjustment of $243 million in July 2021, the statement said. The amount was later reduced.

Vodacom has disputed the decision and lodged an appeal with judicial authorities last month, it said, but the DGI has initiated actions to forcibly recover the sum.

Congolese authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

Congo has been in a running dispute with all its phone operators over its efforts to impose more taxes without allowing companies to increase prices for consumers.

The government adopted a new tax imposing levies on every phone call, text message and megabyte of data in March.

The tax replaced another levy that was withdrawn a month earlier after sparking public protests and a parliamentary inquiry into where the revenue was going.

Vodacom said it had taken measures to ensure the continuity of its services and was using every legal recourse.

(Reporting by Sonia Rolley; writing by Nellie Peyton; editing by Jason Neely)