Upping the ante against ecommerce major Amazon, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has written to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to investigate Amazon’s role in illegal online sale of Marijuana in the country.
CAIT alleged that the US based ecommerce giant is also “actively involved in the smuggling of Marijuana through its platform”.
The development comes days after two people were arrested in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh with 21 kilogram of the drug and police found that they had transacted around 1 tonne (1,000 kg) of the product worth INR 1.1 Cr through the online platform.
In a letter to NCB Director General Satya Narayan Pradhan, the traders’ body said, “Amazon’s involvement in illegal activities to hurt India and an investigation must be initiated under NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act and the Indian Penal Code.”
CAIT further accused the ecommerce behemoth of operating illegally in the guise of an intermediary under the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, while it is allegedly involved in sale of illegal goods.
“We would like to urge you to initiate an urgent investigation that must look into any and all illicit activities that this racket could be invoked in and take stringent penal action against Amazon under section 20(ii)(c) of the NDPS Act and the IPC,” said the letter from Praveen Khandelwal, National Secretary General, CAIT.
Madhya Pradesh Police had summoned the local Amazon manager at Gwalior over the incident. Following which, the company representative along with the lawyer appeared for questioning on Tuesday, said people in the know of the development.
The FIR registered on the matter on Sunday mentioned Suraj Singh Pawaiya and Brijendra Singh Tomar as the two accused in the case. According to the FIR, marijuana worth INR 2.1 Lakh was confiscated from the duo.
The product was sourced from Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), and sold through an unregistered company with a fraudulent GST number, Singh said. The marijuana was delivered to addresses in Gwalior, Morena and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and Haridwar in Uttarakhand, he added.
The illegal drug was categorised as stevia leaves (natural food sweetener) on the Amazon website.
“The ecommerce company used to get around 66% of the profit from the sale of the products,” said Manoj Kumar Singh, the Bhind SP.
In response to a query from Inc42, an Amazon India spokesperson had said on Monday that the company is a marketplace in India, which enables third-party sellers to display, list and sell products to end-customers directly.
“Amazon has a high bar on compliance and contractually our sellers are required to comply with all applicable laws for selling their products on amazon.in. We do not allow the listing and sale of products which are prohibited under law to be sold in India,” said the company spokesperson.
Amazon added that+ as an intermediary, it takes strict action in case sellers list such products.
“The issue was notified to us and we are currently investigating whether there is any non-compliance on part of the seller. We assure full cooperation and support required to investigating authorities and law enforcement agencies with ongoing investigations and ensure full compliance to applicable laws,” said the company spokesperson
Jeff Bezos-led Amazon has been surrounded by controversies off late, this is just another instance that may put its India operations under the scanner once again.
In October, it found itself in a new controversy after a report accused it of copying best-selling products from Indian brands to boost its private-label play as well as rigging search results to give more visibility to its brands over rivals and came under severe criticism for the same.
It has also been criticised for its “exorbitantly” high legal cost in the country leading to charges of bribery, which the company has denied as “misleading representation” of expenses.
The US-based ecommerce giant is also famously involved in a legal battle with Kishore Biyani-led Future Group as it opposes the $3.4 Bn deal of Reliance Retail to buyout Future’s retail assets.