Uber ups the ante in fight with Taiwan authorities by suspending service

This file photo taken on December 28, 2016 shows shows the logo of Uber in Paris. German auto giant Daimler on January 31, 2017 said it had struck a partnership with Uber to supply self-driving cars for the US ride-hailing company. (AFP / Lionel Bonaventure)
Updated 02 February 2017
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Uber ups the ante in fight with Taiwan authorities by suspending service

TAIPEI, Feb 2 : Uber Technologies Inc. said it will suspend its service in Taiwan from Feb. 10, firing the latest salvo in the ride-hailing service company’s long-running dispute with the island’s authorities over mounting fines.
Uber’s move comes after Taiwan recently raised fines against unlicensed ride-sharing services, targeted at Uber, which the company said were the highest in the world. Taiwan has maintained Uber’s business is illegal, and at one point last year even considered ordering it to leave the domestic market.
The US-based firm has been asked to pay T$328.59 million ($10.57 million) in fines so far, with over half the sum slapped on it since early January, when higher penalties of as much as T$25 million per infraction took effect, according to figures from Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications. Uber has paid T$68.25 million to date, the ministry said.
The company has protested fines against it and defended its model, and in November issued an open letter to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to intervene, appealing to her push to turn Taiwan into a Silicon Valley in Asia.
But the higher fines seem to have driven matters to a head.
“We will pause our operations until the president and her government find a solution,” Damian Kassabgi, director of Uber’s public policy in Asia-Pacific, said in an e-mailed statement.
Uber said there was no timeline for how long the suspension would last. The suspension would not affect UberEATS, its the meal takeaway service that relies primarily on scooters for deliveries and was launched in November last year on the island.
“From the view of protecting consumer rights, the government must have some control,” Hu Ti-chi, a ministry official, told a news briefing on Thursday. “Our position has never been to chase Uber out. If there is anywhere we can counsel we will provide it, but it must be a legitimate business.”
Uber operates in Taiwan as an Internet-based technology platform rather than as a transportation company, which local taxi companies and Taiwanese authorities have said is a misrepresentation of its service.
The company has argued that it provides a technology service and has said there are over 10,000 driver-partners, mainly local citizens, registered on its platform in Taiwan who use the opportunity afforded by Uber to earn money.
Hu said if Uber is not regulated as a transportation company, it can be regulated as a transportation service provider and collaborate with local taxi companies. There was room to discuss how it could be regulated, Hu said.
Uber said in a statement that it had taken the initiative in discussions with Taiwan, including securing local insurance and reaching out to collaborate with the local taxi industry.
Uber, headquartered in San Francisco, has been facing similar legal scrutiny in markets across Asia. With steep fines imposed on its drivers in Macau, Uber had decided to pull out of the Chinese-ruled gambling hub, although later it aborted the plans citing support from residents.
In Japan, which bars non-professional drivers from offering taxi services, it was blocked by authorities from setting up in two cities while it also faced opposition from established taxi operators. But a window of opportunity finally cracked open with the ride-hailing firm starting pilot services for elderly people in rural towns last year.
In Tokyo, Uber operates as a travel agent, connecting users to established taxi company drivers.


Abraaj founder’s extradition hearing adjourned

Updated 18 April 2019
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Abraaj founder’s extradition hearing adjourned

  • The US alleges that Arif Naqvi and his firm raised money for the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund, collecting more than $100 million over three years from US-based charities and investors
  • According to the SEC’s complaint, Naqvi misappropriated money from the health fund and commingled the assets with corporate funds of Abraaj Investment Management

LONDON: A case in a London court to extradite Arif Naqvi, the founder of collapsed private equity firm Abraaj, to the US on fraud charges was adjourned until April 26, a court official said on Thursday.
The official said that a former managing partner of Dubai-based Abraaj, Sev Vettivetpillai, had also been arrested and was facing a US extradition request linked to the same charges.
While at Abraaj, Vettivetpillai was head of impact investing in a role that oversaw the firm’s troubled health care fund. Abraaj’s executives are facing US charges that they defrauded investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Naqvi and his firm raised money for the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund, collecting more than $100 million over three years from US-based charities and other US investors.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Naqvi misappropriated money from the health fund and commingled the assets with corporate funds of Abraaj Investment Management and its parent company, and used it for purposes unrelated to the health fund.
Naqvi pleaded innocent last week in a statement released through a PR firm.
He was arrested in the UK earlier this month, while managing partner Mustafa Abdel-Wadood was arrested at a New York hotel, Assistant US Attorney Andrea Griswold told a Manhattan federal court on April 11.