A U.S. judge on Thursday granted Amazon.com Inc’s request to temporarily halt the U.S. Department of Defense and Microsoft Corp from moving forward on an up-to-$10 billion cloud computing deal.
Amazon filed suit in November alleging that President Donald Trump, who has publicly derided Amazon head Jeff Bezos and repeatedly criticised the company, exerted undue influence on the decision to deny it the contract.
Bezos also owns the Washington Post, whose coverage has been critical of Trump and which has frequently been a target of barbs by Trump about the news media.
Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith issued the preliminary injunction but did not release her written opinion. She also ordered Amazon to post $42 million in the event the injunction was issued wrongfully.
The Pentagon said previously it planned to start work on the contract on Friday.
Amazon shares were flat on the news, while Microsoft was down 0.4%.
As part of the lawsuit, Amazon asked the court in January to pause the execution of the contract, popularly known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud, or JEDI. The contract is intended to give the military better access to data and technology from remote locations.
The Pentagon declined comment on Thursday, but Defense Secretary Mark Esper has denied there was bias and said the Pentagon made its choice fairly and freely without external influence.
Microsoft said in a statement it was disappointed by the delay, but added: We have confidence in the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this week, Amazon’s cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services, said it was seeking to depose Trump and Esper in its lawsuit over whether the president was trying “to screw Amazon” over the contract.
Amazon also seeks to question other officials involved in the decision and alleged that Trump had a history of inappropriately intervening in governmental decisions.
The procurement process has been delayed by legal complaints and conflict-of-interest allegations.
The judge told Amazon and the Pentagon to confer by Feb. 27 on what portions of the opinion can be released publicly.
The Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) on Friday announced that it had shut 16 companies in the state over alleged failure to remit about N126.19m consumption tax.
The organization’s Director of Legal Services, Mr Seyi Alade, told the News men in Lagos that the companies’ tax liabilities were from 2014 to 2016.
Alade, who spoke during LIRS state-wide tax law enforcement exercise, added that the companies were audited for the periods, but had not made the payments to the State Government.
According to him, the 16 companies have been closed down, and prohibited from operation until they paid the taxes for the period.
“The affected companies failed to pay the established liabilities despite the long period of time the agency gave them to regularise their tax status,’’ he said.
He said that four of the companies that admitted their tax liabilities made their payments and an additional payment of N100,000 each as distress cost to LIRS.
Alade called on companies and taxpayers in the state to update their tax payments and obligations to avert disruption of their operations and additional distress cost.
The director said that LIRS had sent several notices to the affected companies before embarking on an enforcement exercise.
“Before LIRS embarks on such exercise, it must have sent at least two letter of notices to the management of the affected firms reminding them of their tax liabilities.
“The Demand Notice expiration is 30 days, while the Letter of Intention expires seven days after issuance.
“So, before now both the demand notice letter and the letter of intention have been sent to the management of the companies which they failed to act on,” he said.
Alade said that the LIRS enforcement team had been repositioned to effectively track companies and individuals who evaded tax payments in the state.
He appealed to Lagos residents to cooperate with the government by filling their tax returns and to promptly pay their assessed taxes.
According to him, the LIRS has made tax compliance very easy for the taxpayers through its recent launch of the Electronic Tax platform.
Alade urged taxpayers to make use of this platform for their comfort and ease of compliance with their various tax obligations.
Mr Damola Falola,, the Business Development Manager of Tyttlo Event Centre, one of the affected companies, however, said that the company did not receive any Demand Notice letter from LIRS.
Falola, who admitted the company’s tax liabilities, said that the LIR’s action took them by surprise, adding that the company would soon meet with LIRS for reconciliation and payment