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25

Venezuela Froze Italian Firm Accounts, BP Faces Tax Fine

Venezuelan authorities froze the accounts of an Italian oil company Eni and urged BP to pay back-taxes

Venezuelan authorities froze the accounts of an Italian oil company Eni and urged BP to pay back-taxes, ratcheting up its taxation campaign against energy companies - mostly foreign ones.

Venezuelan court froze the accounts of Eni on Friday in a bid to pressure it to pay $46.2 million in back-taxes incurred from 2001 to 2004.

The tax authority also ordered British energy giant BP and one of its consortiums to pay $61.39 million in back-taxes owed for the same period.

It said BP had 15 days to pay the money or it would face fine increases between 25 percent to 200 percent.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has stepped up measures to levy higher taxes on oil companies since mid-2005, based on legislation adopted in 2001 to increase the tax rate from 36 percent to 50 percent.