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10/10/2005
01:53 PM
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Venezuela Government Closes Some U.S. Tech Firms

The move appears to be part of a massive tax audit now underway.

The Venezuelan government temporary closed offices of some large U.S. companies -- including IBM, Microsoft and Nokia -- last week.

Though several media reports claimed the government announced the move as part of its zero tolerance for tax evasion, a representative from Nokia said Monday that it is business as usual.

"When the Venezuelan tax authority does audits, this is a very common occurrence," Keith Nowak, media relations manager for Nokia said in a telephone interview. "It's simply the way they do it. If they're going to audit you, part of the procedure is you have to shut down for 24 hours."

Nokia and Microsoft have reopened its offices, but IBM's corporate offices and Venezuelan contacts had not returned calls or e-mails Monday. A Microsoft spokesperson said the closure was routine and that Microsoft has operated in complicance with local tax duties under the law.

One observer said it is unusual for several large U.S. companies to be audited at the same time. Media reports said the recent closures appear to be part of a larger effort on the part of President Hugo Chavez' plan to crack down on businesses.

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