New Delhi: Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. has rejected allegations that one current and one former company executive received kickbacks in connection to the company’s India investments.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal newspaper reported that lawyers who claim they are representing anonymous SoftBank shareholders have accused the company of financial impropriety and that Alok Sama, SoftBank president and CFO of its international arm, as well as former president Nikesh Arora received kickbacks in connection to its India investments.
The report also said that the lawyers mentioned above gave a written complaint to India’s Enforcement Directorate about these alleged kickbacks and other financial improprieties regarding Softbank’s India investments.
Arora denied the allegations to the WSJ. “None of the allegations contain even a shred of truth," the paper quoted Arora as saying.
Sama also denied the allegations, saying they are based on “obvious untruths", according to the WSJ.
An ED spokesperson didn’t immediately reply to a text message seeking comment on whether the regulator has received a complaint against Softbank and its executives and whether it is investigating the matter.
SoftBank has pumped in nearly $4 billion into Indian start-ups, holding large minority stakes in companies such as Snapdeal, Paytm, Ola and Grofers. Arora, a former Google executive, oversaw SoftBank’s strategy in India when SoftBank made most of those investments until he left Softbank abruptly in June last year. Sama continues to be closely involved with Softbank’s India investments.
“We are aware that certain individuals are waging a malicious smear campaign against Softbank and its senior executives through a series of defamatory letters. These submissions are based on falsehoods and innuendo, littered with inaccuracies and are a blatant attempt to damage SoftBank’s reputation, and that of its respected executives. SoftBank has investigated the matters raised in these letters comprehensively and with the help of counsel, and found these so called allegations to be baseless and entirely without merit," a Softbank spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“A certain individual in Switzerland, Nicholas Giannakopoulos, claiming to be a shareholder of SoftBank, appears to be fronting this campaign. While SoftBank has the deepest respect for the rights of shareholders to raise legitimate concerns, we will not allow ourselves or our executives to be victims of a shameless intimidation scheme. Accordingly, Softbank has filed a criminal complaint against this individual with the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Geneva on December 23, 2016, and we will not hesitate to take further action to protect its interests," the spokesperson said.
Arora could not be immediately reached for comment.
The new allegations come nearly a year after Arora, who was the designated successor to SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, was cleared by Softbank of wrongdoing regarding its India investments and conflicts of interests regarding some other matters. A New York-based law firm, which said it was representing a group of anonymous Softbank shareholders, had made these allegations. Arora left soon after, when Son decided he would remain CEO for some more time.
Earlier in May, SoftBank had said that it was taking on a loss of $1.4 billion connected to its India investments, mainly due to Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd which runs Snapdeal and ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd which runs Ola.