The noose is tightening around Chinese smartphone companies operating in India. Not so long ago we learned about the silent shift of Manu Kumar Jain, former Managing Director of Xiaomi India, from India to Dubai amidst the ED investigation related to money laundering. In the latest development, the directors of Vivo India are believed to have fled India a day after the ED carried out searches at 40 locations in relation to the alleged violation of the money laundering act. Both the directors, Zhengshen Ou and Zhang Jie, are Chinese nationals.
The development has come to light after a raid conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), at multiple locations in the country that were directly or indirectly connected to Vivo and related companies. More than 40 locations across India were searched. During searches, the agency found top executives of the firms missing.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is already investigating the case. The Chinese company is under the radar of authorities for allegedly violating the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
For the last few months, the Ministry of Company Affairs, as well as the IT department are keeping a close eye on Chinese firms that are suspected of conducting various financial irregularities.
In April, an inquiry was conducted on Vivo to find if there were significant irregularities in ownership and financial reporting.
In the last few months, the Indian authorities have come down heavily on Chinese smartphone firms. In May, the assets of Xiaomi India were seized by the Indian agency under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). Under the provisions of the Act, the agency seized Rs 5551.27 crore from Xiaomi India. Xiaomi India is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the China-based Xiaomi Group. The ED investigation against Xiaomi India was initiated in February, and soon Manu Jain, then the Managing Director of Xiaomi India, silently shifted its base to Dubai. The whole incident took an ugly turn when, in May, the company accused ED of threatening its employees and their families with ‘physical violence’.
Be it Xiaomi or Vivo, the investigation has seeded a sense of panic among all the top executives of the Chinese companies. As ED and the IT department are actively scanning all the documents seized from these raids, it would be interesting to see how these companies who already have a sizeable customer base in India tackle the situation in the weeks to come.