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Carlsberg India probes unearth 'potential improper payments', child labour

Reports by a different global consultancy disclosed other lapses at Carlsberg India Pvt Ltd in 2018, including child labour

twitter-logoReuters | January 12, 2021 | Updated 12:51 IST
Carlsberg India probes unearth 'potential improper payments', child labour
Carlsberg's probes and a boardroom dispute come amid other challenges: an antitrust investigation last year concluded Carlsberg India colluded for years on prices with rivals, though a final ruling is pending

An investigation of alleged unlawful practices at Carlsberg India found "potential improper payments" to government officials and other regulatory lapses, its former auditor said in a document seen by Reuters. Reports by a different global consultancy, also seen by Reuters and previously unreported, disclosed other lapses at Carlsberg India Pvt Ltd in 2018, including child labour.

The findings cast a fresh shadow on operations and compliance practices at the Indian joint venture of Danish brewer Carlsberg A/S, which according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis has a 17% share of India's $7 billion beer market. Carlsberg's probes and a boardroom dispute come amid other challenges: an antitrust investigation last year concluded Carlsberg India colluded for years on prices with rivals, though a final ruling is pending.

An India affiliate of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) network recently resigned as Carlsberg India's financial auditor after declining for two years in a row to give an opinion on the brewer's financials, amid boardroom tussles and internal probes into local practices, Reuters reported in November.

Since at least 2019, Carlsberg had been probing allegations levelled by some past and current employees around promotion of alcohol in prohibited areas, kickbacks and bribery, according to regulatory filings and the document prepared by local PwC affiliate Price Waterhouse Chartered Accountants LLP.

The investigation "concluded that there were internal control weaknesses ... potential improper payments made to government officials/other persons and possibility of misappropriation of company's funds over past years by certain customers," says the PwC document, which details the basis of the firm's resignation. "However, the amount of misappropriation and other amounts relating to inappropriate practices could not be ascertained."

PwC declined to comment. Carlsberg told Reuters in November the auditor had quit because of "highly disruptive side-effects" of a commercial conflict with its India joint venture partner, the Nepal-based Khetan Group. Three nominee directors from Khetan refused to approve the last two annual results.

In a filing for the 2018-19, PwC said it was withholding an opinion due to "divergent views" among board members, ongoing forensic reviews and the possible impact these could have on legal compliance. Results for the year through March 2020 have not been published, but the PwC document says the "complaining directors" had divergent views on the scope, manner and findings of the investigation into Carlsberg's local practices.

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