Malaysia in Fed’s sight in Uber bribe probe

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After the 1MDB scandal, now it is the Uber scandal that has hit Malaysia with a probe by the US Justice Department looking into a possible criminal (bribery) case involving Uber in Asia.

Uber Technologies Inc, is facing a federal probe into whether it broke laws against overseas bribery, and Malaysia comes on top of the countries where the suspected crime took place.

Bloomberg said Uber’s law firm is reviewing a web of financial arrangements tied to the Malaysian government that may have influenced lawmakers there.

Uber has also launched a review of its Asia operations and notified U.S. officials about payments made by staff in Indonesia, people with knowledge of the matter said to Bloomberg.

Attorneys are focused on suspicious activity in at least five Asian countries: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea.

Uber’s law firm is investigating a corporate donation, announced in August 2016, of tens of thousands of dollars to the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre, a government-backed entrepreneur hub.

Around that time, a Malaysian pension fund, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan), invested $30 million in Uber, people familiar with the deal told the business portal.

Less than a year later, the Malaysian government passed national ride-hailing laws that were favorable to Uber and its peers. Lawyers are trying to determine whether there was any form of quid pro quo.

Emil Michael and Eric Alexander, two former business executives at Uber, played key roles in negotiating those deals, the people said.

“We strongly refute our involvement in any quid-pro-quo arrangements,” a spokeswoman at Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre said via email.

Uber said it’s cooperating with investigators but declined to comment further. Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment.

Late last year, Uber had a run-in with Indonesia police over the location of an office in Jakarta providing support to local drivers, people with knowledge of the events said.

Bloomberg said Police officers said the space was outside city zoning for businesses, so an employee decided to dole out multiple, small payments to police in order to continue operating there, the people said. The transactions showed up on the employee’s expense reports, described as payments to local authorities.

“Uber fired the employee, the people said. Alan Jiang, the company’s head of Indonesia business who approved the expense report, was placed on a leave of absence and has since left the company. Jiang didn’t respond to requests for comment,” said the news portal.

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