Tax Authority Shuts Total, ENI Offices for 48 Hours

Venezuela's Seniat tax authority closed the administrative offices of French oil major Total (NYSE: TOT) and its Italian peer ENI (NYSE: ENI) for 48 hours on Thursday morning, claiming the companies had not filed their bills and invoices properly.

Seniat director Jose Vielma Mora told reporters the move is not related to Seniat's tax claim against Total, which owes 231bn bolivares (US$107mn) in alleged unpaid taxes incurred from 2001-04 and that the same goes for ENI, which is alleged to owe some 158bn bolivares in back taxes.

"For two days the oil company Total will be closed for not complying, we won't touch the operations part," Vielma said.

"It doesn't have anything to do with the 231bn bolivares Total owes Venezuela's government, it's because their billing just wasn't up to date. ENI also will be closed 48 hours for poor bookkeeping," Vielma said.

Both Total and ENI had agreed to enter into E&P partnerships with state oil firm PDVSA in which the latter would have at least 60% stakes.

Besides operating the Jusepin field for PDVSA, Total has 47% of Sincor, a joint venture with PDVSA and Norway's Statoil to produce synthetic crude from some 200,000 barrels a day of extra-heavy Orinoco crude.

ENI has even more diverse interests in Venezuela: it operates the Dacion field; is a major partner in the Super Octanos JV to manufacture premium-gasoline components with state petrochemicals firm Pequiven; and has two other subsidiaries operating in the country, Lasmo and Snamprogetti.

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