Documents reveal: Carlsberg bribed public officials in India

Internal documents show that systematic cash payments were made by senior executives in Carlsberg India to selected public officials. Experts suggest the payments were bribes.

Danish brewery Carlsberg is the third largest brewery in India. Foto: Ali Monis Naqvi Fold sammen
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Foto: Ali Monis Naqvi

Over a period of 18 months, key executives at Danish brewery Carlsberg's Indian subsidiary systematically made secret cash payments to Indian public officials.

This is clear from extensive material obtained by Danish newspaper Berlingske. Experts say the payments appear to be bribes, and the information has led Carlsberg to launch an »extensive« audit in India.

According to Berlingske's information, the payments were made in cash to a number of officials responsible for excise, regulatory oversight and the issuance of permits to breweries in India. The payments were aimed at ensuring faster regulatory processing times and more advantageous manufacturing terms for an Indian Carlsberg brewery.

Berlingske is in possession of material indicating more than 200 payments made to officials over a period of 18 months across 2015 and 2016. In a number of instances, the payments were approved by an Indian citizen who was at the time a member of the board for Carlsberg India.

Several experts who have viewed the material see clear signs of bribery.

»It clearly appears to be in violation of the Danish Criminal Code. What is interesting and crucial in this case is the systematic nature. It appears to be a regular monthly payroll,« says Jørn Vestergaard, Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Copenhagen.

Steven Sampson, a researcher on corruption and Professor Emeritus at Lund University, considers it a »serious« case, while Alexandra Andhov, Assistant Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Copenhagen, suggests that »based on the material, it appears to be a clear case of bribing a number of officials«.

Three key sources confirm the allegations. They anonymously described to Berlingske that Carlsberg India has systematically made secret payments to public officials.

Carlsberg launches review

Carlsberg's Director of International and Danish Media, Kasper Elbjørn, states in a written response to Berlingske that Carlsberg was presented with »a few excerpts« of Berlingske's material as early as 2017. According to Carlsberg, this related to a discontented member of staff who claimed to have been wrongly dismissed. The staff member wanted Carlsberg to pay him two million US dollars and threatened to go to the media with information on the alleged bribes, Kasper Elbjørn states. These accusations prompted Carlsberg to launch a review.

»The review concluded that the alleged dismissal was in fact a resignation which had followed all correct procedures and that it was not possible to prove any of the accusations regarding facilitation payments or bribes.«

But Carlsberg now states that Berlingske appears to have »significantly more extensive material« on the matter than what Carlsberg has had an any given time. Since Berlingske first approached Carlsberg on this matter two weeks ago, the company has therefore launched an »extensive audit enquiry«, Kasper Elbjørn writes.

Read longer Danish versions here and here.

Read Carlsberg's response here (in Danish).