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Amazon’s involvement in marijuana smuggling case gets murkier after company denies executives were charged

The e-commerce giant has found itself in a messy situation that has seen two recent arrests and mistaken identities.


Last Saturday, multiple reports citing official sources said that Madhya Pradesh police booked Amazon’s executives in relation to a marijuana smuggling case and Vishakapatnam police arrested two of the company’s delivery workers with marijuana in their possession. Amazon, however, has denied that its executives have been charged and denied to confirm the development in Vishakapatnam.

Backstory: After arresting two men with 21 kg of marijuana on November 13, police from Bhind district in Madhya Pradesh on November 16 accused Amazon of aiding smugglers to order and deliver the drug to various states by allowing the drug’s listing under the guise of dry stevia leaves. Bhind Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Singh said that the Amazon platform was used for 1,000 kgs of marijuana sales worth over ₹1 crore so far.

What are the recent developments?

  • Bhind, Madhya Pradesh: The Bhind police had sought responses from Amazon and summoned the company’s executives in relation to the case, but due to differences in answers in documents provided by the company, the police on November 20 named executive directors of Amazon India as accused under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Reuters reported citing an official police statement. The police did not disclose the names of executives that were charged, the report stated. Before Amazon was named as accused, Narottam Mishra, the home minister of Madhya Pradesh, said that the company was not cooperating with the investigation. “Amazon was called but they’re not cooperating. We will bring them. I appeal to Amazon’s MD-CEO to cooperate or else we’ll initiate action,” Mishra said according to TechCrunch.
  • Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh: Acting on a tip received from the Bhind police, Vishakapatnam police on November 20 said it arrested two Amazon workers with marijuana, NDTV reported citing Bhind police as the source. According to the first information report shared by the Confederation of All India Traders on Twitter, the police accused five men of smuggling 48 kg of marijuana. The report mentions that the accused were carrying Amazon-branded packing bags and cello tape with them at the time of the arrest.

Amazon denies its executives were charged, says fully cooperating with law enforcement

An Amazon spokesperson told MediaNama:

“Reports that Amazon executives have been arrested or charged as part of this case are incorrect and we are not aware of any Amazon executives being named in the investigation. On the contrary, Amazon continues to assist with the investigation. There are media reports of third party delivery contractors being investigated, but we cannot confirm these reports.”

The spokesperson also said that the company “extends full cooperation to law enforcement agencies” and will continue to share information that law enforcement needs in their investigation of this case.

The spokesperson added that Amazon.in is a third-party marketplace (intermediary) where sellers offer their products to customers directly and that contractually, all sellers are required to comply with all applicable laws. “Amazon has zero-tolerance for misconduct and takes strict action against individuals or third-parties for violation of our policies or applicable laws,” the company said.

Adding to the company’s challenges in the country

Regardless of the actual status of the investigation, this whole incident doesn’t bode well for the e-commerce giant as it already faces numerous challenges in India including an antitrust investigation by the Competition Commission of India, a legal battle with Future Retail, bribery allegations, and the proposed e-commerce rules that tighten the noose around e-commerce companies. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which has already called for an investigation by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the arrest of Amazon officials, has doubled down on its efforts in light of the new developments and asked the government to suspend the e-commerce platform’s operations in India.

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