ByteDance says it is 'bleeding' due to India bank account freeze, no relief from court

Abhirup Roy
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: ByteDance logo is seen in this illustration

By Abhirup Roy

MUMBAI (Reuters) - An Indian court on Wednesday granted no relief to China's ByteDance, owner of the TikTok video app, in a case where the company challenged the local tax authority's decision to block its Indian bank accounts, dealing a blow to its operations.

Indian authorities in mid-March blocked ByteDance's bank accounts for alleged tax evasion, prompting the company to ask a court to quash the directive which it feared would hurt its operations.

A two-judge bench at the High Court in Mumbai city heard the plea of a ByteDance counsel who said the company was "bleeding" and needed funds to pay staff salaries and rent, but the court gave no relief.

"I’m completely hanged. I need some oxygen to survive. All bank accounts are frozen. I have to pay salary to the staff," ByteDance's counsel Prakash Shah told the court, adding that four of the company's bank accounts had been blocked.

After hearing objections from a government counsel, the court said the case will next be heard on April 6.

ByteDance, which has said it disagrees with the Indian tax authority's decision, said in a statement late on Wednesday it was confident in its legal position and was looking forward to a ruling by the court.

ByteDance in January cut its Indian workforce after New Delhi retained a ban on its popular video app TikTok, first prohibited last year following a border clash between India and China. China has repeatedly criticised India's move.

ByteDance still has around 1,300 employees in India, most of whom service its overseas operations, including work on activities such as content moderation.

Authorities ordered ByteDance India's accounts at Citibank and HSBC to be blocked this month because of alleged evasion of certain taxes in online advertising dealings between the ByteDance unit in India and its parent entity in Singapore, TikTok Pte Ltd, Reuters reported.

Last year, Indian tax authorities inspected documents at ByteDance's office and questioned some executives in relation to the advertising and other transactions with its parent entity.

(Reporting by Abhirup Roy in Mumbai; Writing by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Bernadette Baum)