November 4, 2008 / 7:43 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-Venezuela gives Brazil's Odebrecht $282 mln tax bill

(Adds Odebrecht saying has fully paid taxes, paragraph 2)

CARACAS, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Venezuela hit Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht with a $282 million tax bill on Tuesday, embroiling the company and a leftist Andean government in its second dispute in just a few weeks.

Odebrecht responded in a statement that it had paid all its taxes and so did not need to pay the new bill.

Venezuela’s Seniat tax authority gave Odebrecht 15 days to appeal, or start paying.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has good relations with Brazil’s center-left government, but he has at times sided with closer allies in their disputes with Latin America’s economic heavyweight.

In September, Ecuador expelled Odebrecht over a disputed dam, costing the firm the rights to $800 million in contracts with the left-wing government.

Chavez often acts in consort with his allies, ejecting the U.S. ambassador in September after Bolivia did the same thing, and sending troops to his border with Colombia to support Ecuador in its own conflict with that country in March.

Privately owned Odebrecht is one of Brazil’s largest companies and builds major public works in Venezuela, including new metro lines and a bridge across the Orinoco river. It declined to comment on the tax bill.

Venezuela has considerably boosted tax collection under Chavez but Seniat critics say it often appears to act politically, slapping back tax bills on companies, such as oil majors, in disputes with the government. (Reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Gunna Dickson)

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