, ARGENTINA, Dec 7 – An Argentine prosecutor on Tuesday threatened to arrest and jail Uber drivers and managers for operating unregulated vehicles and tax evasion.
The threat came as hundreds of taxi drivers set tires ablaze and backed up traffic for hours as they rallied in downtown Buenos Aires, angry over competition from the online transportation network company.
Taxi drivers have been furious since Uber opened for business in Argentina in April. Cab drivers pay taxes and drive routinely-inspected vehicles, as opposed to the personal vehicles that Uber uses.
Uber drivers “are charged with earning money in public spaces without authorization,” public prosecutor Martin Lapadu said on the Once Diez radio station.
They also face legal trouble for failing to operate with a professional driver’s license, “which carries penalties of up to 10 days of arrest,” Lapadu said.
Uber managers in Argentina could be in trouble not only for breaking those rules, but also “for tax evasion, a crime that has a penalty of two to four years in prison,” Lapadu said.
Unionized taxi drivers in early November suffered a legal defeat when a court ruled that their criminal complaint against Uber was a business dispute, not a criminal case.
Lapadu, however, described Uber as an illegal operation operating in cities across the world “outside of the law, putting at risk the lives of its users.”
Taxi drivers and local authorities plan to offer an app that offers Uber-like services for registered taxi drivers.
The greater Buenos Aires region has a population of 13 million, and some 38,000 registered taxi drivers.