(Adds comments from Orange statement, details)
NIAMEY, Nov 30 (Reuters) - French telecoms group Orange said on Friday that Niger’s government had ordered it to shut all its offices in the country because of a tax dispute, complaining that the decision was brutal and disproportionate.
Orange said the government had done so on the basis of a “questionable” claim to 22 billion CFA francs ($38 million) in back taxes.
Niger authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a population of 20 million, and as such is a small market for the French telecoms giant. “Orange Niger ... regrets the brutality of such measures, especially given the exorbitant amounts claimed, which represent nearly 50 percent of Orange Niger’s turnover,” the company said in a statement. It said it had been in constructive dialogue with the authorities. “Orange Niger ... intends to exercise all the avenues of recourse, in particular to safeguard the continuity of the company, seriously threatened by these unilateral and disproportionate decisions,” it added. (Reporting by Moussa Aksar Writing by Tim Cocks Editing by Susan Fenton)