MUMBAI: Chinese smartphone maker Vivo said on Tuesday it was “cooperating with authorities” in India after reports investigators raided dozens of its offices on suspicion of money laundering.

The searches make Vivo the latest Chinese tech company to face scrutiny by Indian investigative agencies, after similar raids against Xiaomi and Huawei earlier this year.

A Vivo spokesperson confirmed that the Enforcement Directorate — India’s financial crime-fighting agency — had raided multiple locations and seized company property.

“Vivo is cooperating with the authorities to provide them with all required information,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to be fully compliant with laws.”

New Delhi conducted similar raids against Xiaomi, Huawei earlier this year

Vivo specialises in budget handsets and had carved out 15 percent of India’s competitive smartphone market by last year, data from tech research firm Counterpoint showed.

Multi-year sponsorships of popular sporting events such as the Indian Premier League T20 cricket tournament have helped Vivo’s brand become a household name in India since its market debut in 2012.

Vivo’s parent company BBK Electronics also owns rival brand Oppo, which sells OnePlus and Realme smartphones and tablets.

Relations between India and China have been at a low ebb since a deadly Himalayan military stand-off between both nations in 2020.

In the aftermath, India’s home ministry banned hundreds of mobile applications of Chinese origin, including the hugely popular social media platform TikTok.

The government justified the bans as a necessary safeguard against threats to India’s sovereignty.

Anti-China sentiment has grown in India since the fatal 2020 troop clash, sparking calls for consumer boycotts of Chinese goods.

But China continues to be a key economic partner for India, with more than $125 billion in bilateral trade last year.

Vivo manufactures 50 million devices and employs 10,000 Indians at a factory near the capital New Delhi, the spokesperson said.

India is home to the second-highest number of smartphone users after China. Its smartphone market grew 27 percent year-on-year in 2021, according to Counterpoint, with annual sales exceeding 169 million units.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2022

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