AB InBev has had its beers banned from the capital of India, New Delhi, as local authorities say the Belgian brewery group has dodged taxes. The ban is valid for three years.
Bar code scam
Two AB InBev warehouses in New Delhi have been sealed, following an investigation into the producer of beers like Stella Artois and Leffe. During inspections in 2016, the local police had found bottles of beer from SAB Miller (which AB InBev has acquired since) on which no excise duties had been paid.
In order to be able to check whether brewers have paid the local excise duties, the Indian capital requires them to provide each bottle of beer with a unique barcode. This allows the inspectors to trace the origin of the beer. Twelve bottles that were found in the BarShala café should however, according to that barcode, still have been in the SAB Miller distribution centre.
During a second raid a few months later, bottles came up with exactly the same barcode. New Delhi investigated the matter for three years, and concluded that the brewery group reused barcodes several times in order to pay less excise duties.
Banned for three years
The punishment is severe: no AB InBev beer is allowed to enter the city for three years. However, the brewery group has appealed against the ruling and said it has done nothing wrong. "Integrity and ethical business are part of our core values. We look forward to giving our vision in collaboration with the official authorities", a spokesperson said according to Belgian newspaper De Standaard.
The impact of the ban is huge: AB InBev is the second largest beer producer in India, with a market share of 17.5 % consisting of both its international brands and local beers. Beer is on a rapid rise in India, and New Delhi is certainly an important market for imported premium beers.