The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed an FIR against Cadbury India Ltd (now known as Mondelez Foods Private Limited) for alleged irregularities and corruption in obtaining licenses for its factory in Himachal Pradesh in 2009-10, officials said.
The CBI has conducted raids at the premises of Mondelez Foods in Haryana and Himachal today, and recovered incriminating materials, said sources. Raids were also conducted at the residential and official premises linked to the accused in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
Sources in the agency said Mondelez Foods, in conspiracy with Central Excise officials, had availed excise benefits to the tune of ₹ 241 crore for its new unit built in Himachal Pradesh's Baddi region, which was reportedly manufacturing 5 Star and Gems chocolate.
The CBI has named Nirmal Singh, Superintendent and Jaspreet Kaur, Inspector, of Central Excise Department as accused in the case along with 10 others including Mondelez Foods. The case has been lodged under IPC 420 (forgery) and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The anti-corruption unit of CBI, Shimla, conducted these raids on the allegation that Mondelez Foods misrepresented facts to avail area-based tax exemption benefits worth around ₹241 crore.
In its enquiry, the CBI found Mondelez Foods expanded its existing production units to avail the duty benefits from May 2005. The unit, which was functional since 2005 and manufacturing Bournvita, was prohibited for manufacturing any other commercial products. As per the rule, Mondelez Foods should have opened a new manufacturing unit instead of expanding the existing unit.
"For availing the same, some members of the executive board of the company, along with key managers, collectively decided to manipulate records, engage intermediaries to route bribes and cover up all those evidence that had surfaced during the internal investigation," claimed a CBI official.
Meanwhile a Mondelez India spokesperson said in a statement, “In 2019, the company settled a potentially protracted litigation through the Sabka Vishwas (Legacy Dispute Resolution) Scheme, 2019 – an amnesty scheme introduced by the Indian government to settle tax litigation. This decision was made in the interest of putting an end to protracted litigation to enable us to focus on what we do best, growing our business in India. We are yet to receive any formal communication in the matter from the authorities”.