ED summons Amazon, Future Group executives in FEMA probe
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned senior executives of Amazon India, including its country head Amit Agarwal, and that of the Future group for questioning in a foreign exchange violation probe linked to the disputed deal between the two conglomerates, official sources said on Sunday.
The executives have been summoned along with documents for the coming week under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), they said.
Amazon India head Agarwal, some other senior officials of the company and those of the Future Group have been called, the sources said.
The investigation is being conducted under various sections of the FEMA after the federal agency received a communication from the Commerce Ministry early this year seeking “necessary action” against e-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart pertaining to certain multi-brand retail businesses and an observation made by the Delhi High Court in relation to Amazon.
The HC had said that the attempt made by the US-based firm to control Future Retail through a conflation of agreements it has with an unlisted unit of the Indian company will be considered as violative of the FEMA and foreign direct investment (FDI) rules.
The executives have been asked to join so that investigation can be taken forward. The agency has gathered details from the documents submitted by the companies earlier and other sources over the last few months, agency sources said.
An Amazon spokesperson said they were examining the ED summons.
“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,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The Kishore Biyani-led Future Group did not respond to the queries over the development.
Amazon and Future Group have been battling it out in courts after the Kishore Biyani-led group in August last year agreed to sell its assets to billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail on a slump sale basis for Rs 24,500 crore.
Amazon is objecting to the sell-off plans, accusing Future Group of breaching its 2019 investment pact. Future Coupons was founded in 2008 and is engaged in the business of marketing and distribution of gift cards, loyalty cards, and other rewards programmes to corporate customers. The US-based company had approached the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) as well as in Indian courts.
Earlier this month, a promoter entity of Future Retail Ltd (FRL) had been asked by the ED to provide documents pertaining to the 2019 deal with Amazon. FRL had noted that it has not received any direction to provide any document.
The independent directors of FRL have approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI), urging it to revoke the approval it had given to the Amazon-FCPL deal in 2019, alleging the e-commerce major of making false statements before it.
Amazon has also written to the independent directors of FRL, alleging “significant financial irregularities”, and said this warrants a “thorough and independent examination” of relevant facts and related party transactions between FRL and other Future Group entities.
It has also reached out to CCI, requesting it to “act in aid of the binding injunctions operating against FRL, FCPL and the Biyanis, in terms of the EA (emergency arbitrator) Order and the Order on Vacate Application and recall the Observation Letters forthwith”.