Uber reviews Asia business over bribery allegations in US: Report

Uber reviews Asia business over bribery allegations in US: Report

The logo of Uber is seen on an iPad, during a news conference to announce Uber resumes ride-hailing service, in Taipei, Taiwan April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

NEW YORK: Uber Technologies Inc, which is the subject of a federal probe into whether it broke bribery laws, has started a review of its Asia operations and notified US officials about payments made by staff in Indonesia, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Bloomberg report was accurate.

Uber said in August it was cooperating with a preliminary investigation led by the US Department of Justice into whether company managers violated US laws against bribery of foreign officials, specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Uber hired law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP to investigate how it obtained the medical records of an Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014, Reuters reported in June.

O'Melveny & Myers is now examining records of foreign payments and interviewing employees, raising questions about why some potentially problematic business dealings were not disclosed sooner, Bloomberg said on Tuesday (Sep 19).

Attorneys are focused on suspicious activity in at least five Asian countries: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea, Bloomberg said, adding that Uber's law firm is reviewing financial arrangements tied to the Malaysian government that may have influenced lawmakers there.

"ARRANGEMENTS TIED TO MALAYSIAN GOVT"

In Malaysia, Bloomberg reports attorneys working with Uber are "reviewing a web of financial arrangements tied to the Malaysian government that may have influenced lawmakers there".

Uber’s law firm Bloomberg reported "is also investigating a corporate donation, announced in August 2016, of tens of thousands of dollars to the Malaysian Global Initiative and Creativity Centre, a government-backed entrepreneur hub". 

It went on to add that around that time, Malaysian pension fund Kumpulan Wang Persaraan "invested $30 million in Uber, said people familiar with the deal" and less than a year later, "the Malaysian government passed national ride-hailing laws that were favorable to Uber and its peers".The report added: "Lawyers are trying to determine whether there was any form of quid pro quo." 

An Uber rep in Malaysia told Channel NewsAsia they are "cooperating with the investigation".

The rep also said: "Beyond that, we won't be able to comment since this is an ongoing investigation."

MALAYSIA SAYS NO QUID PRO QUO ARRANGEMENTS

In a statement to Channel NewsAsia, Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri said she concurred with a statement by the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) that there has not been any quid pro quo arrangements that affected decision making in relation to the regulation of the e-hailing business

She added that Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had put into motion initiatives to transform the taxi industry since January 2012, ahead of Uber’s entry into Malaysia in 2014.

A Taxi Industry Transformation Programme which includes regulation for the e-hailing business received Cabinet approval in August 2016, and was the result of extensive consultations with stakeholders she said.

Due process was followed in the passing of amendments to the Land Public Transport Act and Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board Act in July this year, she added.

MaGIC also denied the allegations.

“We strongly refute our involvement in any quid-pro-quo arrangements," it said in a statement on Friday.

"At MaGIC, we regularly collaborate with corporates, offering strategic platforms and initiatives to connect them with Malaysia’s leading entrepreneurial talent. As part of our efforts to help build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, these partnerships help inspire young entrepreneurs at the ideation stage, bridging a gap in our ecosystem.”

(Additional reporting by Sumisha Naidu in Kuala Lumpur) 

Source: Reuters/CNA/rw/aa/jp

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