Vivo offices raided in India in money-laundering probe

FILE PHOTO: A Vivo logo at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China February 22, 2019. Picture taken February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

MUMBAI (Reuters) -India’s financial crime-fighting agency on Tuesday raided the offices of smartphone maker Vivo, owned by China’s BBK Electronics, and its related entities, a senior government official and an industry executive told Reuters.

The searches by the Enforcement Directorate are part of an investigation into suspected money laundering, local media reported.

“Vivo is cooperating with the authorities to provide them with all required information,” a Vivo spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “As a responsible corporate, we are committed to be fully compliant with laws.”

The Directorate did not respond to requests for comment.

The sources declined to be named as the probe is not public.

The raids at Vivo come months after the Enforcement Directorate launched an investigation into Xiaomi Corp, one of India’s leading smartphone sellers, for alleged illegal remittances abroad “in the guise of royalty” payments. Xiaomi’s India offices and manufacturing units were raided in December.

Xiaomi has denied any wrongdoing, and alleged in court that its top executives faced threats of “physical violence” and coercion during questioning by officials at the Directorate. The agency denied the allegations.

India had reportedly launched “a multi-agency probe” against Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo back in January to look into their business practices amid allegations of tax evasion by suppressing profits. In April, the Directorate summoned top officials of Xiaomi and Oppo sub-brand OnePlus after tax officials claimed to have seized data that allegedly corroborated the tax evasion allegations.

Many Chinese companies have struggled to do business in India due to political tensions following a border clash in 2020. India has cited security concerns in since banning more than 300 Chinese apps, and also tightened norms for Chinese companies investing in India.

(By Aditya Kalra; Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Abhirup Roy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey)

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