Consumer drug maker Unilever is embroiled in a number of lawsuits in Brazil.

The Dutch-British company is said to have evaded taxes in the country.

The total potential fine amounts to 2.9 billion euros, NRC writes on the basis of the annual report of 2020.

The biggest case concerns the restructuring of the Brazilian branch.

Between 1999 and 2004, the maker of Ben & Jerry's and Dove, among others, led a major restructuring worldwide in which more than a thousand small brands were sold.

In Brazil, however, this led to a series of acquisitions that bundled the company into Unilever Brasil.

According to the Brazilian tax authorities, that operation was only aimed at avoiding taxes and had no business purpose.

The case already came to court in 2004, but then the judge ruled in Unilever's favour.

In 2013, however, the tax authorities initiated a new case.

The claim then amounted to 561 million euros and has since risen to 2 billion euros.

According to Unilever, the ruling can still take "a few years".

Internal transactions are under attack

In addition, there is an ongoing case concerning transactions between Unilever Industrial and Unilever Comercial in Brazil.

The Brazilian division consists of two parts, with one party selling its products exclusively to the other party.

However, that would happen at a price three times lower than the final sale price.

Unilever pays taxes on that three times lower price instead of on the final sale price.

The tax authorities believe that this is not possible because the companies do not operate independently, but fall under the same parent company.

Unilever has set aside 35 million euros pending the verdict.

Acquisition of subsidiary was tax avoidance

Finally, there are smaller tax lawsuits in Brazil for another 650 million euros and the food company has already had to pay at least 137 million in a case that it lost on appeal in 2020.

In 2008 Unilever acquired its subsidiary Unilever Brasil Alimentos in Brazil.

The judge ruled that the company made the acquisition to avoid income tax.

No one at Unilever could be reached for comment for the time being.