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Amazon Opens Investigation into Alleged Bribes Paid by its Legal Counsel to Indian Govt Officials

The developments come after a whistleblower complaint alleged that legal fees being paid by Amazon were being "funnelled" by its legal counsel to officials of the Indian government.

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New Delhi: Online retail giant Amazon on Monday, September 20, announced that it would be conducting an internal investigation into whistleblower allegations that the company’s legal council bribed officials of the Indian government, the Indian Express reported.

The whistleblower complaint alleged that an amount of the “legal fees” paid by Amazon had been funnelled into bribes paid by one or more of its legal representatives, a report by news platform the Morning Context claimed.

The report also quoted Indian government officials as saying that there is “zero tolerance” towards any form of corruption as far as the government is concerned. The officials noted that the e-commerce company had spent Rs 8,500 crore in legal fees over the past two years and that “it is time to think where it is all going.”

The reports also noted that the company’s senior legal counsel has been sent on leave while the internal investigation takes place. This legal counsel, along with another independent lawyer from Delhi, are allegedly the focus of the investigation.

In a statement to news agency PTI, an Amazon spokesperson affirmed that the company has a “zero tolerance” policy towards corruption, however, would not make any comments regarding specific allegations or the status of the investigation at the time.

The revelations could expose Amazon to a probe under the US’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) which prevents US-based companies from paying bribes to foreign officials to further business interests. 

The FCPA is enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Department of Justice.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has also been spurred into action, writing to commerce minister Piyush Goyal demanding a CBI probe into the matter. It remarked that the issue at hand involves the credibility of the government and is counter to its vision of removing corruption at all levels,

The CAIT has also expressed that it will approach the SEC for a “fair and honest” probe.

Amazon is also currently under the scanner of the Competition Commission of India, which ordered in investigation last year into the e-commerce giant’s use of unfair business practices to stifle competition.

(With PTI inputs)