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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tax Police Search Offices of Top Ad Firm

Moscow tax police have searched records in the Moscow office of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi -- and were answering the phones there for a while Wednesday evening -- but company officials maintained Thursday that it was only a routine tax audit.

Tax police officials declined to disclose any details about the check. An officer who answered the phone at Saatchi & Saatchi late Wednesday said only that it would take up to a month to assess the information gathered.

Officer manager Leo Villard, who is out of the country on vacation, said by telephone Thursday that the search was "nothing special" and that it was "business as usual" Thursday morning.

"It's a normal tax audit that other companies [also] have," he said from London, where Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Ltd. is based.

"It's nothing special. I got no signal from my senior people there that there was anything happening except business as usual."

Tax police have been increasingly active against both domestic and foreign companies in recent months, reflecting the cash-strapped government's drive to improve its poor tax-collection record and boost revenues.

It is unclear, however, how tax police and tax service auditors coordinate their actions. Under recent federal laws, tax police have been given powers of search and seizure and can act independently of other tax authorities.

Alexander Yerofeyev, deputy head of Saatchi & Saatchi's Moscow office, said any firm could expect surprise checks, given the government's hunger for tax revenue.

A Moscow tax police spokesman, Alexander Borisov, denied that such checks were purely random, but he would not be specific about the Saatchi & Saatchi case.

Saatchi & Saatchi has been in Moscow for about 2 1/2 years acting as a representative for the company's international clients, Villard said.