Ecommerce giant Amazon, which is said to be investigating alleged bribes paid by its legal representatives in India, spent a staggering INR 8,546 crore or $1.2 billion in legal expenses for maintaining a presence in the country during 2018-20, sources said.
Sources aware of the firm’s public account filings said six entities of the company – Amazon India, Amazon Retail India, Amazon Seller Services, Amazon Transportation Services, Amazon Wholesale (India), and Amazon Internet Services – paid INR 3,420 crore in India during 2018-19 and INR 5,126 crore during 2019-20 towards legal fees.
The company is locked in a legal tussle over the takeover of Future Group and is facing a probe by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
While the company declined to comment on the legal fee issue, traders body the confederation of all Indian traders (CAIT) claimed that e-tailer spending 20 percent of its revenue on lawyers was questionable.
“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,” CAIT National Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal wrote to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.
Without offering any proof for his claim, he demanded a CBI inquiry.
On September 20, 2021, a report stated that the company had initiated an investigation against some of its legal representatives for allegedly bribing Indian government officials. Its senior corporate counsel has reportedly been sent on leave in this matter.
“Which company over the globe while spending more than 20 percent of its accrued revenue on paying to lawyers can sustain in business and that too even making losses year by year, but yes, it is global e-tailer Amazon in India which is a living example of this mind-boggling acrimony,” CAIT alleged on Tuesday.
The global e-commerce giant also faces a probe by India’s fair-trade watchdog CCI for alleged anti-competitive practices, predatory pricing and preferential treatment of sellers.