CBI has registered a case against confectionery giant Mondelez, the maker of Cadbury chocolates, to probe allegations of bribing public servants to evade Rs 580 crore in excise duty, a top official said on Wednesday.
The probe has been initiated on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission that did the groundwork, said chief of the anti-corruption watchdog K V Chowdary.
"Registration of case has happened after the Commission has supplied more information to them. We did some initial investigation. We got a lot of documents that we made available (to them)," Chowdary told PTI in an interview.
He said the Commission was looking into allegations of bribery of certain public servants in the duty evasion case.
The case relates to Mondelez India's 'ghost' production unit in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh.
"What we are looking at is the allegation that these people have made some inappropriate payments to public servants to get expedite or to get some benefits.
"So who are these people who received these benefits and whether they attract any disciplinary or criminal proceedings... That is the scope of the CVC's work," Chowdary said when asked what allegations the CBI would investigate.
The CVC exercises superintendence over the working of the CBI in corruption related matters, according to the CVC Act.
A Mondelez India spokesperson said in an email response that its executives acted in good faith and within the law while claiming excise tax benefits for its plant in Baddi.
"The matter is currently in the legal domain and therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time. We do not have anything new to share. For information, please consult our most recent Form 10-Q and 10-K filings," the spokesperson said.
Form 10-Q contains quarterly reports of a company and 10-K is the annual report of a firm. Both are filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
According to Chowdary, information from other countries has been sought in the tax evasion case.
"We have already recommended (the case) to the CBI. The CBI is already in the process of investigating. Here the information is to be got from other countries. So it is a time consuming process. The local enquiries have been completed... they are awaiting information from the competent authority," he said.
The demand of about Rs 580 crore was raised in 2015 against Mondelez India Foods Pvt Ltd, the erstwhile Cadbury India Ltd, for allegedly evading excise duty by fraudulently taking exemption for a 'ghost' production unit in Baddi.
In 2011, the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI), now Directorate General of Goods and Services Tax Intelligence (DG GSTI), here initiated a probe against the company for allegedly misusing area-based exemption for its new unit in Baddi, even before it came into existence.
According to norms, new industrial units in Himachal Pradesh can get full exemption from excise duty for production of specified goods for a period of 10 years. However, the unit should have been established before March 2010 for availing the exemption.
During investigation, DGCEI officials allegedly found that Mondelez claimed excise duty exemption for its new unit in Sandoli village in Baddi relating to a period even before it came into existence, officials said.