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Pune court asks police to probe bribery allegations against IT major Cognizant

A sessions court in Pune has directed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Maharashtra Police to investigate allegations against IT major Cognizant Technologies that it paid a bribe through a contractor to local government officials to secure necessary permits and environmental clearances for its campus at Hinjawadi on the city's outskirts.
Last Updated : 27 April 2024, 02:21 IST
Last Updated : 27 April 2024, 02:21 IST

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Pune: A sessions court here has directed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Maharashtra Police to investigate allegations against IT major Cognizant Technologies that it paid a bribe through a contractor to local government officials to secure necessary permits and environmental clearances for its campus at Hinjawadi on the city's outskirts.

The bribe was allegedly paid between 2013 and 2014.

The order was passed on April 19, on a complaint filed by Delhi-based environmental activist and retired police officer Prit Pal Singh through his lawyer Pratik Rajopadhye.

The complaint relied on proceedings of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) of the USA against Cognizant Technology Private Ltd's parent firm Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation, USA regarding alleged bribing and violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Singh had requested the Pune court to direct the ACB to register an offence under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act against Cognizant, its Indian construction contractor, and Manikandan Rammurthy, former vice president (administration and real estate officer, Cognizant, India).

Additional Sessions Judge S B Hedaoo stated in the order that as the reference to the alleged transaction was found in the US SEC order, there was sufficient material to forward the complaint to the ACB Pune.

Unless an offence was registered against the unknown government officers involved the alleged bribery, 'this matter would not move even inch further', the court observed, adding that without an urgent investigation, evidence in the company's computers may vanish.

'Complaint is forwarded to Anti Corruption Bureau, Pune under section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure for investigation. Anti- Corruption Bureau, Pune is directed to investigate these allegations and submit a report,' the order said.

As per the complaint, the contractor firm which constructed the software firm's Hinjawadi and Chennai offices informed it that bribes were required to be paid to government officials at both places to obtain necessary permits and environmental clearances.

Cognizant, USA and its Indian subsidiary allegedly agreed to this, the complaint said.

In 2013-2014, USD 7,70,000 were reimbursed by the Indian subsidiary company to the contractor firm (which had allegedly paid the bribe of the same amount on its behalf) with regard to the Pune campus, the complaint claimed, citing the US SEC order.

'Some time in 2016, in the internal audit of parent company at U.S.A. this fraud was detected and as against this bribe amount so pumped up to India, some fake vouchers and bills of non-existing work were raised to cover up the bribe transaction. The parent company in U.S.A. conveyed this fact to Securities Exchange Commission, U.S.A. Before this statutory authority, the Department of Justice of U.S.A. prosecuted the parent company and parent company admitted its offence and undertook to pay the penalty of 25 million dollars to U. S. government by entering into a settlement of deferment of prosecution as per U.S.A. law. The order to that effect was passed by SEC, USA on 15/02/2019,' the Pune court's order stated.

When contacted, Cognizant said in a statement that it does not comment on sub-judice matters and it was 'committed to complying with the law'.

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Published 27 April 2024, 02:21 IST

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