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Indian tax authorities raid offices of Chinese smartphone maker Vivo

Why does a smartphone maker have 2kg of gold bars in the office? India reckons it smells tax fraud

India's Department of Revenue has acted against scams it alleges originate in China.

The Department's Directorate of Enforcement on Wednesday raided 48 premises belonging to Vivo Mobiles, the Indian outpost of the smartphone vendor that, according to Counterpoint Research, holds 15 percent of India's smartphone market.

The reason for the raids was the Department's belief that Vivo shifted about $8 million to China, "in order to disclose huge losses in Indian incorporated companies to avoid payment of taxes in India."

The Department has also seized 119 bank accounts, plenty of cash, and two kilograms of gold bars.

China's foreign ministry acknowledged the raids and called for Indian authorities to "provide a truly fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies investing and operating in India."

The raids follow the May 2022 seizure of $725 million from Chinese gadget-maker Xiaomi's Indian presence, on grounds it too had improperly funneled cash to China.

In June 2022 the Department also revealed it was probing Vivo and Chinese telco equipment maker ZTE.

Investigations into both are continuing, as are probes into a clutch of financial services apps that offered predatory loans using funds the Department alleges came from sources in China.

New Delhi alleges that the apps offered short term loans, sometimes on punishing terms, and that Chinese lenders profited from their actions to the tune of $120 million.

The Department has seized millions it believes were destined for China, and revoked licenses for some of the companies that published the lending apps.

The two actions mark a new skirmish in the testy relationship between China and India, which has soured since India banned hundreds of Chinese apps. It justified the bans as protecting citizens' privacy.

The two nations have also skirmished, literally, on their shared but ill-defined Himalayan borders. The two nations' foreign ministers met this week and agreed to settle matters on the border. Mobile phone makers with gold bars in the office might be trickier to figure out. ®

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