Govt kickstarts prosecution in Reebok case

The government has started prosecution proceedings in the case of alleged financial fraud at sportswear maker Reebok India.

This follows the Serious Fraud Investigation Office submitting its report to the corporate affairs ministry on this case, which relates to allegations of financial misdoings at the sportswear major's India operations.

In its FIR, last year, Reebok had alleged financial fraud to the tune of Rs 870 crore at the company by certain persons including senior executives of its India arm.

"Whatever the SFIO findings were and the people involved, the prosecution has been sanctioned... The prosecution has started. We took legal opinion and did what was the best thing to do," corporate affairs minister Sachin Pilot told PTI. However, he did not provide any further details on the prosecution exercise.

Reebok India had alleged fraud by its former Managing Director Subhinder Singh Prem and former CFO Vishnu Bhagat. Both of them have denied the charges.

Adidas, the German parent firm of Reebok, has communicated to the Ministry that the global management team of the company acted like a whistleblower in bringing the fraud to light and they should be kept out of any prosecution.

Asked about the case, Pilot also said that "anybody who is a whistleblower or someone who has flagged the issue and reported something, then to prosecute them perhaps is not the best thing".

"The view we got from many sources was that if you are a whistleblower and you are a complainant, you can't then also be prosecuted for the same case," he added.

A Reebok India spokesperson, in August had said it was important to reiterate that the company was the primary victim of the fraudulent activity.

Adidas said its balance sheet for 2011 was negatively impacted by 153 million euros on account of irregularities at its arm Reebok India.

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