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Bribery row: Amazon clears the air on legal fees paid in India and its not thousands of crores

In a letter, Amazon set the record straight about the exact figure that it had racked up in legal expenses for FY20.

Contradicting earlier reports that claimed Amazon paid a whopping ₹8,546 crores ($1.2 billion) in legal fees in India during 2019 and 2020, the company said that it merely paid ₹52 crores for the fiscal year ending March 2020. The company issued this clarification in a letter dated September 28 to commerce minister Piyush Goyal, seen by The Hindu. The e-commerce giant's legal expense figure was thrown into the spotlight after The Morning Context on September 20 reported that Amazon is investigating a whistleblower complaint alleging that the money paid by the company in legal fees was funneled into bribes to government officials by its legal representatives in India. Although this news report did not provide any figures, it prompted other media outlets to unearth the legal fee expenses from public filings made by the company. The next day, two unnamed government officials told Hindustan Times that the government is examining the issue and the appropriate agency will investigate if necessary. "The abnormally high expenditure as legal fee certainly raises doubts, especially when the government has received written complaints from various people, including association of the local retailers," one of the officials told HT. Soon after, Amazon confirmed that it will investigate the bribery allegation but said that the legal expense figure reported by media was inaccurate because it included fees paid by an entity that is not a subsidiary of the company and it was computed from a line item in the public account filings made by the company that included substantial non-legal expenses such as customer research, merchant onboarding…

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