E-commerce behemoth Amazon has reportedly spent Rs 8,456 crore as legal expenses to maintain its presence in the country during 2018-20, according to PTI. The retailer is investigating a whistleblower complaint on bribery by one or more of its legal representatives.
Sources aware of the company's accounting filings said Amazon Retail India Pvt Ltd, Amazon Seller Services Pvt Ltd, Amazon Transportation Services Pvt Ltd, Amazon Wholesale (India) Pvt Ltd, and Amazon Internet Services Pvt Ltd (AWS) collectively spent Rs 3,240 crore during 2018-19 and Rs 5,126 crore during 2019-20 as legal fees in India.
Trader's body writes to Commerce Minister
National General Secretary of Confederation of All India Traders, Praveen Khandelwal demanded a CBI inquiry. In his letter to the Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Khandelwal said stringent action must be taken against Amazon under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Khandelwal cited a media report to back his claim. He questioned why Amazon would spent 20 per cent of its global revenue in legal fees.
"The whopping amount spent under legal professional fees clearly shows how Amazon and its subsidiaries are misusing their financial muscles to bribe and manipulate Indian government officials," Khandelwal wrote to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.
The furore follows a report in the the publication 'The Morning Context', stating that Amazon had initiated an investigation into the conduct of its legal representatives in India. As per the report, a whistleblower alleged a certain amount paid by Amazon in legal fees was used to pay bribes by one or more of its legal representatives.
An Amazon spokesperson told Outlook Business, "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."