Jim Beam to pay $8 million for ‘bribing’ Indian govt officers

New Delhi: Spirits company Beam Suntory Inc, which is best known for its Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Jim Beam, will be paying $8 million for allegedly bribing government officials for years to make inroads in the South Asian country’s highly regulated liquor business, the US Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement on Monday.

Between 2006 and 2012, the company made illicit payments through third-party sales promoters and distributors to get licenses and secure prominent placements on store shelves, the SEC said.

Beam didn’t admit or deny the allegations.

In a statement, Beam said that it’s “committed to doing business the right way everywhere we operate and that it first discovered the problems and alerted US authorities.” The company has taken corrective action and is cooperating with the Justice Department, which is continuing a probe into the matter, according to the statement.

In one alleged violation, senior managers at an international Beam unit agreed to pay an Indian official about $18,000 – the cost of 1,000 standard whiskey bottles in the US – to smoothen the process for a new product back in 2011. The Rs 1 million payment was equivalent to about a year’s worth of salary for the Indian bureaucrat, the SEC said.

The Illinois company traded on the New York Stock Exchange before being acquired by Japan’s Suntory Holdings Ltd. in 2014.

(With inputs from Bloomberg)