US Prosecutors Expand Probe into Adani Group Amid Bribery Allegations

US prosecutors are broadening their investigation into India’s Adani Group to explore potential bribery and the conduct of its founder, according to individuals familiar with the matter. The inquiry is examining whether Adani or its affiliates, including Gautam Adani, may have made payments to officials in India for favorable treatment on an energy project. The investigation, managed by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Justice Department’s fraud unit in Washington, also involves Indian renewable energy company Azure Power Global Ltd.

Adani Group responded, stating, “We are not aware of any investigation against our chairman,” emphasizing their adherence to anti-corruption laws. The Justice Department and Azure declined to comment. Despite ongoing investigations, neither Gautam Adani, his company, nor Azure have been charged with wrongdoing, as investigations don’t necessarily result in prosecutions.

Adani Group, a significant presence in India with diverse interests, including ports, airports, and power infrastructure, has attracted investment globally. US law enables federal prosecutors to pursue foreign corruption allegations with connections to American investors or markets.

Last year, Adani Group faced accusations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud, triggering investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although vigorously denying these allegations, the company’s shares experienced a temporary decline.

The current stage of the Adani probe is advanced, with the possibility of the DOJ proceeding without notifying the involved parties. Both Adani Group and Azure operate in India’s green-energy sector and have secured contracts for solar projects under the same state-run program. Adani aims to establish itself as a leading renewable-energy company amidst India’s green initiatives.

Meanwhile, Azure faced issues related to whistleblower complaints and was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange due to delayed filings. The company acknowledged cooperating with authorities after an internal investigation uncovered potential improper payments.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prohibits US-linked entities from offering incentives to foreign officials for favorable treatment. Although Adani Group doesn’t trade in the US, it has American investors. FCPA cases often involve lengthy investigations due to gathering evidence from overseas.

Gautam Adani has vehemently defended his company against allegations, terming them as “malicious” and “false narratives.” Despite initial setbacks, Adani Enterprises Ltd.’s shares rebounded, and Gautam Adani’s wealth surged, ranking him among the world’s wealthiest individuals.

India’s investigations into Adani Group are nearing resolution following a court directive. The court-appointed committee found no regulatory failures or signs of price manipulation in Adani Group stocks.

The US scrutiny of Adani Group holds geopolitical significance, given India’s role as a counterbalance to China. Despite the ongoing probe, US entities have engaged with Adani Group, as demonstrated by the US International Development Finance Corp.’s financing of a port terminal project in Sri Lanka, aimed at reducing Chinese influence in the region. A senior US official clarified that the allegations against Adani were not relevant to the subsidiary involved in the Sri Lankan project.

The widening investigation into Adani Group underscores the complexities of global business operations and the regulatory challenges involved. While facing scrutiny, Adani Group continues to navigate its various projects and investments amidst the evolving landscape of international business and geopolitics.