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Pacquiao wins round in Philippine tax fight

MANILA--Philippine world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has won a Supreme Court reprieve in his battle to avoid paying tens of millions of dollars in extra taxes, authorities said Thursday.

Pacquiao will not have to post a cash bond of 3.3 billion pesos (US$75.2 million) and the government is banned from seizing any of his assets while his income tax case is being heard, according to a Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling, handed down this week and sent to AFP by court spokesman Theodore Te on Thursday, also ordered the proceedings be carried out more quickly as they began last year and are still in the pre-trial stage.

Pacquiao expressed relief at the ruling, which came ahead of a China tour starting next week to promote the Macau defense of his World Boxing Organization welterweight title against unbeaten U.S. challenger Chris Algieri in November.

“Let us now let the legal process take its course. For now, I am just glad I will be able to concentrate on training for my upcoming bout,” he said in a statement.

The dispute arose from an initial assessment from the government that Pacquiao, 35, owed 2.2 billion pesos in unpaid taxes for 2008 and 2009.

President Benigno Aquino has waged a bruising campaign against tax evasion as part of a general crackdown on corruption during his four years in office.

Pacquiao, who has held world titles in eight separate weight divisions and is also a member of Congress, has become one of the highest-profile targets of the tax office's sweep.

The boxer has insisted he paid the 2008 and 2009 taxes in the United States, so did not need to do so in the Philippines because the two countries have an agreement allowing their citizens to avoid double taxation.

The tax office alleges Pacquiao failed to provide documents proving his U.S. payments.

It also says that, even if Pacquiao did pay in the United States, he would still owe some money in the Philippines where there is a higher rate of taxation.

Last year the government froze several of Pacquiao's bank accounts and the financing on one of his properties in an exclusive gated community in Manila.

It also threatened to take the money owed by seizing and then selling off his assets.

The tax court agreed in April to lift the asset freeze on the condition Pacquiao posted the giant cash bond by Aug.. 17.

“We went to the Supreme Court to get the bond requirement removed, since it would defeat the purpose of the lifting of the asset freeze,” Pacquiao's lawyer Tranquil Salvador told AFP on Thursday.

The cash bond is equivalent to the back taxes that Pacquiao allegedly now owes the government, plus interest, Salvador added.

The dispute is a civil case that does not involve prison penalties.

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