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Salinas Group Owes $3.8 Billion, Mexico Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- Four companies controlled by Ricardo Salinas Pliego owe the government 63 billion pesos ($3.8 billion), the head of the country’s tax authority said on Wednesday, amid a deepening dispute between President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the billionaire.

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The tax claims stem from 17 different court cases covering audits from 2008 to 2018, Antonio Martinez, the head of the tax service SAT, said during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s morning press conference. Lopez Obrador, whose term ends in September, said he hoped that Salinas “will not keep using delay tactics so that my administration ends and the matter remains there, pending.”

Officials made the presentation on the tax claims the day after the banking, retail, TV and cable magnate had posted a video on X where he said he and his companies pay plenty of taxes. He accused the government of using him as a distraction from criminal violence and corruption and he called on people to vote for the “less bad” option in elections this June, when Lopez Obrador’s party is expected to win handily.

Known tax disputes involve Grupo Elektra SAB, Salinas’s appliance dealer and bank, as well as cable and internet provider Total Play, though officials refrained from naming companies in their presentations. A spokesman for Salinas’s companies referred to the billionaire’s video and said he would keep fighting in court.

Earlier this month, Lopez Obrador said that he had discussed with Salinas the possibility of reducing the tax claim by 8 billion pesos, but that they had not reached an agreement. Meanwhile another dispute with the billionaire escalated last week when national guard troops were sent into a golf course in the resort of Huatulco that was operated by Salinas. The troops were sent in after the government had declared the property a nature reserve. Salinas has said he has a valid concession to operate the resort and called the government’s move arbitrary.

In his video, Salinas said the government was routinely extorting businessmen by approaching them with big tax bills, while saying they will “pardon” them if they pay half.

“We do not give in to extortion and that is why we do not accept any discounts. We are not going to pay more than what is correct,” Salinas said. “And for no reason are we going to pay double or even triple as this administration intends.”

Salinas said he and his companies pay an “obscene” amount of taxes and he called on the government not to interfere in the court cases. Martinez said some 38 billion pesos were flagged in initial audits, but adjusted for inflation and fines, the total tax claim would reach 53 billion pesos. The company owes an additional 10 billion pesos in tax liabilities, he said.

(Corrects amount flagged in initial audits in final paragraph)

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