India’s anti-money laundering agency raided more than 40 offices of Chinese phone-maker Vivo across the country on Tuesday over allegations of money laundering, the latest in a series of developments illustrating the growing murky relationship between New Delhi and firms of Chinese origin.
The Enforcement Directorate searched Vivo’s offices across the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, according to local media reports.
In a statement, a Vivo spokesperson told TechCrunch that the firm was cooperating with the authorities.
“Vivo India is cooperating with the authorities to provide them with all required information. As a responsible corporate, we are committed to being fully compliant with laws in India,” the spokesperson said, without elaborating details of ED’s proceedings.
The ED has been seeking to investigate whether Vivo had any “significant irregularities in ownership and financial reporting” for several months, Bloomberg reported in April.
In the same month, the ED seized $725 million from Xiaomi India alleging that the company had illegally remitted money in the name of royalties upon “instructions from instructions of their Chinese parent group entities.”
Xiaomi refuted these charges and separately said its executive faced “physical violence” threats during the investigation, Reuters reported earlier. The company also challenged the enforcement agency’s ruling in Karnataka High Court, and the decision is currently pending.
India Cellular and Electronics Association, a lobby group that represents several tech giants including Apple, Google and Amazon, in May urged New Delhi to intervene and alleged that ED lacked understanding of how royalty payments in tech business worked.
The raids follow a geopolitical tension brewing between the two nuclear-armed, neighboring nations.
India banned over 200 Chinese apps including TikTok and PUBG Mobile in mid-2020 over national security concerns shortly after a skirmish at the border between the armed forces of the two countries.
The South Asian market, which has never officially identified China in its block orders, has so far avoided any severe restrictions on Chinese smartphone makers.
Chinese smartphone makers continue to dominate the Indian market. Four of the top five manufacturers in India were Chinese in the quarter that ended in March; Xiaomi maintains the tentpole position whereas Vivo ranks fourth on the chart, according to research firm Counterpoint.