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Madhya Pradesh Police Books Amazon India Executives In Online Marijuana Sales Case

Madhya Pradesh Police Books Amazon India Executives In Online Marijuana Sales Case

The police have been able to track down around 20 consignments which were sent to various locations via Amazon

On November 14, the local police arrested two people for selling marijuana in Bhind

CAIT on November 17 wrote to the NCB to probe Amazon’s role in the matter

Nearly a week after unearthing a trail of Marijuana sale through the Amazon India platform, Madhya Pradesh Police has registered a case against executives of the ecommerce giant under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) Act. 

The case has been registered under Section 38 of the NDPS Act, which pertains to the role of companies and their management in an offence related to narcotic substances.

Speaking to Inc42, Manoj Kumar Singh, the Superintendent of Police of Bhind District, Madhya Pradesh, said that the case has been registered against the Board of Directors of Amazon Seller Services Pvt Ltd (ASSL), an Amazon India subsidiary. The FIR, however, does not mention any name, he added.

“Amazon replied to our notice yesterday, but we were not satisfied with the responses and hence registered the case,” he said.

Further, the police have not been able to track down around 20 consignments which were sent to various locations via the ecommerce platform, he added.

Last Sunday (14th November), the local police arrested two people for selling marijuana in Bhind. According to the police, they were using the Amazon India platform to procure and sell those products, following which they summoned the local manager of the ecommerce behemoth in Gwalior.

The police had also procured around 21 kilograms of ‘ganja’ (marijuana) from them and said that the transaction trail showed that they had sourced and transacted about 1 tonne (1,000 KG) of the product worth INR 1.1 Cr so far on Amazon.

The FIR registered then mentions Suraj Singh Pawaiya and Brijendra Singh Tomar as the two accused in the case. The product was sourced from Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), and sold through an unregistered company with a fraudulent GST number, Singh had told Inc42. He added that the marijuana was delivered to addresses in Gwalior, Morena and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and Haridwar in Uttarakhand. 

The illegal drug was categorised as stevia leaves (natural food sweetener) on the Amazon website.

Responding to a query from Inc42 in the matter, an Amazon India spokesperson reiterated the company’s stand that Amazon operates a marketplace in India (amazon.in), which enables third-party sellers to display, list and offer products for sale to end-customers directly. 

“We do not allow the listing and sale of products which are prohibited under law to be sold in India. However, in case sellers list such products, as an intermediary, we take strict action as may be required under the law, when the same is highlighted to us. The issue was notified to us and we are currently investigating it,” the spokesperson said.

The company also assured full cooperation and support required to the investigating authorities and law enforcement agencies with the ongoing investigations and ensured full compliance to applicable laws.

On Wednesday, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) wrote to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to investigate Amazon’s role in the illegal online sale of Marijuana in the country.

In its letter, the traders’ body alleged that the US-based ecommerce giant is also “actively involved in the smuggling of Marijuana through its platform”.

Prone To Controversies & Legal Issues

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.

Last month, a report accused Amazon of copying best-selling products from Indian brands to boost its private-label play and rigging search results to give more visibility to its brands over rivals.

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.

Note: We at Inc42 take our ethics very seriously. More information about it can be found here.