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India's freeze on bank accounts is harassment, ByteDance tells court

Authorities ordered ByteDance India’s bank accounts to be blocked in mid-March.

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New Delhi: Video sharing app TikTok's parent company,ByteDance has told the Bombay high court that the government's decision to freeze its bank accounts in a probe of possible tax evasion amounts to harassment and was done illegally, Reuters reported on Sunday.

The Chinese technology company had reduced its Indian workforce in January amid uncertainty over its future business in the country and its short-lived foray into one of the biggest markets. The decision came months after the government announced a ban on its popular video app TikTok which had amassed hundreds of millions of users in India. The ban was announced following a border clash between India and China.

Reuters had reported that an Indian tax intelligence unit had ordered HSBC and Citibank in Mumbai to freeze bank accounts of ByteDance India in March, as part of its probe of the company’s financial dealings. The Chinese firm challenged the freeze in Bombay high court. The court declined to grant ByteDance immediate relief last Wednesday and listed the case for next hearing on 6 April.

ByteDance India also told the court it has a 1,335-strong workforce, including outsourced personnel, and the account freeze has impacted the release of their March salaries. In the 209-page court filing lodged on 25 March accessed by Reuters, the Chinese company told the court that the "authorities acted against the company without any material evidence and gave no prior notice, as required by Indian law, before such drastic action". It further added, that “blocking accounts during the process of investigation amounts (to) applying undue coercion. It is intended, improperly, to harass the petitioner.”

The Beijing-headquartered company is also facing global scrutiny over TikTok’s data collection practices.

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