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Carlsberg India Probes Find 'Potential Improper Payments', Child Labour

Carlsberg’s probes and a boardroom dispute come amid other challenges: an antitrust investigation last year concluded Carlsberg India colluded for years on prices with rivals, though a final ruling is pending.

New Delhi: An investigation of alleged unlawful practices at Carlsberg India found “potential improper payments” to government officials and other regulatory lapses, its former auditor said in a document seen by Reuters.

Reports by a different global consultancy, also seen by Reuters and previously unreported, disclosed other lapses at Carlsberg India Pvt Ltd in 2018, including child labour.

The findings cast a fresh shadow on operations and compliance practices at the Indian joint venture of Danish brewer Carlsberg A/S, which according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis has a 17% share of India’s $7 billion beer market.

Carlsberg’s probes and a boardroom dispute come amid other challenges: an antitrust investigation last year concluded Carlsberg India colluded for years on prices with rivals, though a final ruling is pending.

An India affiliate of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) network recently resigned as Carlsberg India’s financial auditor after declining for two years in a row to give an opinion on the brewer’s financials, amid boardroom tussles and internal probes into local practices, Reuters reported in November.

Since at least 2019, Carlsberg had been probing allegations levelled by some past and current employees around promotion of alcohol in prohibited areas, kickbacks and bribery, according to regulatory filings and the document prepared by local PwC affiliate Price Waterhouse Chartered Accountants LLP.

The investigation “concluded that there were internal control weaknesses… potential improper payments made to government officials/other persons and possibility of misappropriation of company’s funds over past years by certain customers,” says the PwC document, which details the basis of the firm’s resignation.

“However, the amount of misappropriation and other amounts relating to inappropriate practices could not be ascertained.”

Responding to questions from Reuters, Carlsberg said, “We cannot rule out breaches of our policies and code of conduct.” The company said it does everything possible to prevent such incidents.

(Reuters)