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SEOUL, Apr 29 (Reuters) South Korea's tax authorities raided the local office of France's Carrefour, which is selling its Korean outlets to a consortium for $1.85 billion, local TV news reported on Saturday.

Officials from the National Tax Service made an unscheduled visit to the South Korean headquarters of Carrefour late on Friday and took away documents, according to state-run KBS TV.

''We were suddenly told to leave the office with computers on and cabinets open,'' a Carrefour staff member told KBS. TV pictures also showed officials from the tax service entering the Carrefour office and taking away boxes of documents in a truck.

Spokesmen at the tax service declined to comment, while Carrefour officials could not be reached immediately.

KBS gave no reason for the investigation, but said the move could be a step towards imposing taxes on any capital gains Carrefour would make from selling its local stores.

Carrefour, the world's second-largest retailer behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said on Friday it had signed a deal with a South Korean consortium led by fashion retailer E-Land Ltd.

to sell its 32 outlets in the country.

Public pressure is rising on the government to tighten rules against foreign investors that sell South Korean assets and reap hefty gains at low tax.

Carrefour, ranked fourth in South Korea, is selling out of the $22 billion local discount store market, where it has underperformed, so it can move resources to China's $240 billion retail sector.

Carrefour has invested about $1.1 billion since it entered Asia's fourth-largest economy in 1996. From its South Korean outlets, Carrefour posted a 6.9 billion won profit on sales of 1.67 trillion won in 2005.

REUTERS PV SND1215

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