Uber faces US Bribery probe for activities in South East Asia

• Indonesian employee fired for paying off Jakarta Police.

• Law firm investigating quid pro quo investments in Malaysia.

Uber is facing a Justice Department probe in the US of A of its Asian businesses, after allegations of bribery that seem to have run afoul of the US laws forbidding foreign corrupt practices. Now the somewhat embattled ride-sharing scheme that is embroiled in sexual harassment allegations at home in California has begun a probe into its Asian allegations, and notified US officials about payments made by its staff in Indonesia.

Law firm O’Melveney and Myers have been appointed by Uber to try and unravel the problematic Asian business dealings, amongst questions as to why they had not been revealed to the American authorities sooner. Apparently, the lawyers will be investigating suspicious activities in at least five Asian countries: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea. A report carried by Bloombergindicated that in Malaysia, a web of financial dealings tied to the government may have influenced lawmakers here.

However, for the moment, the investigation is centred on Indonesia, where the Uber office had been closed by the local police for being outside a business-zoned area. A local manager there decided to take matters into his own hands and make pay-outs to the local police to keep the operation going. The payments were expensed by the Uber manager, Alan Jiang, who was placed on Garden Leave and later left the company. According to a Reuters report, there is no police investigation in Indonesia into bribery by Uber.

The Malaysian allegations are a little less obvious and may well turn out to be nothing more than corporate largess. Apparently the legal team will investigate a donation made by Uber to the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre, a government-backed entrepreneurial hub. At about the same time, the Malaysian government’s pension fund, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (aka KWAP), invested USD30 million in Uber, followed very shortly afterwards by a change in the law allowing for ride-sharing for Uber and other like companies.

Dealings in India, China and Korea are all very separate, but perhaps highlight the pressure there was for Uber to establish itself in markets across the globe or be beaten into second place in the industry that it created. The company is now embroiled in probes and investigations into numerous areas of its business that has prompted the departures of a number of the top executives, including founder Travis Kalanick, although he does remain a major shareholder.

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