Amazon’s India management and its country head Amit Agarwal have been asked to appear before the ED next week
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Amazon.com Inc has asked the Competition Commission of India (CCI), India’s antitrust regulator, to revoke its approval for Future Retail Ltd’s (FRL) $3.4 billion sale of retail assets to Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).
In a letter to CCI, Amazon said the approval for the deal was a “nullity in the eyes of law" as an arbitrator’s order was still in force.
“In spite of the binding directions contained in the EA (emergency arbitrator) Order, FRL continued to pursue the approval for the Impugned Transaction by terming the EA Order a ‘nullity’. The FRL Letter was thus issued in direct contravention of the EA Order, in a brazen attempt to subvert the rule of law. Pursuant to such contumacious conduct, FRL misled the hon’ble commission, and precipitated the grant of the CCI approval for the Impugned transaction," Amazon stated in the letter.
The RIL-FRL deal was initiated in August 2020 after which it was challenged by Amazon in Singapore International Arbitration Centre. Amazon won an injunction against the deal from a Singapore arbitrator last year, alleging Future had violated contracts that prevented it from selling the assets to entities including Reliance. RIL has extended the long stop date for the deal to 31 March 2022, because of the ongoing arbitrations.
In an intimation to the stock exchanges, FRL on Sunday said that it believes CCI will not be intimated by the “arrogance of Amazon" and will take action on its show cause notice against Amazon according to law.
“At this stage, the counsels to Amazon, in utter disregard to the norms and in utter disrespect to the Indian statutory regulatory authority refused to argue the matter and walked out of the proceedings in an attempt to browbeat the CCI," FRL said in a letter to the stock exchanges.
Amazon’s letter to the CCI comes days after Amazon claimed that some audit committee members of FRL had demanded a forensic audit to probe alleged funds diversion through undisclosed related-party transactions.
In a 24 November letter to independent directors of FRL and audit committee members, Amazon alleged that former and current audit committee members of FRL expressed concerns about related-party transactions among entities controlled by the promoters despite substantial equity and debt fund mobilization through December 2019 and January 2020.
The enforcement directorate (ED) earlier this week issued summons to the management of Amazon India as well Future Group over alleged foreign exchange management act (FEMA) violations.
Amazon’s India management and its country head Amit Agarwal have been asked to appear before the investigative agency next week, an ED official said, not wanting to be named.
Officials of Future group have also been summoned to verify documents, the official said.
The enforcement agency is probing whether Amazon was in violation of the foreign exchange rules when the company invested ₹1,431 crore for a 49% stake in Future Coupons Pvt Ltd (FCPL).
Amazon India in an emailed response said, “We are in receipt of summons issued by the ED in connection with the Future Group. As we have just received the summons, we are examining it and will respond within the given time frame."
A spokesperson for Future group did not reply immediately to queries.