Amazon India Bribed Govt Employees For Favours? Indian Govt Launches Inquiry
With the US e-commerce giant Amazon already under the scrutiny of the Indian competition regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) allegedly for practicing predatory pricing and preferential treatment of sellers, matters have become worse for the former.
According to a whistleblower, some legal representatives from Amazon bribed officials in the Indian government, to which the government has expressed that it will practice a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards corruption.
According to a US website, Amazon has started conducting in-depth investigations concerning the matter.
An unnamed source has told the PTI that giants headquartered in the US, ones like Amazon are known to act readily on whistleblower complaints and engage in them seriously.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on the other hand, an association of prominent Indian trade bodies, have written to the Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, demanding a CBI inquiry into the bribery case.
The association in the past too, have registered multiple complaints against e-commerce websites like Amazon and Flipkart to the CCI, for practicing unfair means of trading, conducting anti-competitive practices and predatory pricing.
What is the Amazon Bribery All About?
On September 20, 2021, a whistleblower flagged allegations of Amazon’s legal representatives bribing Indian government officials.
Once uncovered, both the Indian government and Amazon officials became active and dived into conducting inquiry-based investigations on their ends.
The GOI has stressed that it will practice a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards anti-corruption. As per a report, Amazon has also launched a probe into the allegation.
“As far as the government of India is concerned there is ZERO tolerance towards corruption of ANY kind in the government,” stated the Indian government.
That being said, there is currently no clarity of the exact ‘when’ part of the alleged act taking place and in which state.
The Indian government has stated that Amazon has been spending over Rs 8,500 crore in legal fees and uges the company to trace the whereabouts of these transactions.
It has also urged the US based giant to punish the officials involved.
Amazon’s Sr Corporate Counselor Sent on Leave
Reports yesterday, have shown that Amazon is conducting an inquiry on the bribery case, in connection to which the officials have found out that public accounts of some Amazon companies show about ? 8,500 crore in legal fees over the past two years.
According to the report, the ‘legal fees’ have been paid to an independent lawyer hired by the company and is known to have been in part “funnelled into bribing government officials”.
As that unfolds, reports of Amazon sending its senior corporate counsel on leave, amid the ongoing investigation, have popped in.
Amazon has stated that it has a zero tolerance for corruption, without either confirming or denying the allegations.
“We have zero tolerance for corruption. We take allegations of improper actions seriously, investigate them fully, and take appropriate action. We are not commenting on specific allegations or the status of any investigation at this time,” said a spokesperson from Amazon to PTI.
Besides, an unnamed person close to the matter has said to the PTI that companies like Amazon take matters related to whistleblower complaints very seriously, especially those involving payment of bribes to foreign government officials, in order to not hamper their relations with the concerned countries and retain business.
CAIT Demands CBI Inquiry on Amazon Case
If things were dodgy for Amazon due to constant complaints registered against it by industry body CAIT on its ‘anti-competitive practices’ conducted in the Indian market, matters have simply gotten worse for the US giant, after the bribery case.
CAIT has bestowed allegations on Amazon and Flipkart since over 2 years, for practicing deep discounting and predatory pricing, which left the traders’ body unprofited.
The association has lodged complaints against Amazon for violating the FDI policy too.
Now, CAIT has demanded the Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to set a CBI inquiry into place for investigating the bribery. It also urges the minister to make the names of the officials involved public and punish them accordingly.
The traders body has also stated that it would approach the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler to demand a “fair and independent probe”, states NDTV.
The association adds that taking this step is important to entrust the credibility of the government with the government’s vision of removing corruption at all levels.
Amazon is already under the radar of the Competition Commission of India for the complaints registered by CAIT.