On December 26th, three detained executives from Chinese smartphone company Vivo’s India unit appeared in a Delhi court hearing where Indian authorities produced a controversial secret letter related to money laundering allegations.
The Vivo executives, including one Chinese national, were arrested recently by India’s financial crime agency for alleged money laundering. This represents the third time in recent months that Indian authorities have targeted Vivo with similar accusations, despite a lack of evidence emerging from previous investigations.
During the over 3-hour court proceedings, Indian prosecutors surprisingly submitted a sealed confidential letter to the judge, demanding he alone read its contents before deciding on extending the executives’ detention. Vivo’s lawyers strongly opposed this move as unjustified.
After a heated debate, the judge agreed to share the letter’s contents with defense counsel under strict non-disclosure agreements. The court extended the detention of the three Vivo executives by two more days, imposing conditions on the sharing of the report to ensure confidentiality. This accident, however, was not covered by several Indian media outlets.
Observers called the letter a likely pretext for India to pressure Vivo without a legal basis. They said submitting unilateral claims for ex parte review exposed the hearings as a security dragnet denying real judicial contest, not impartial law implementation.
The recent arrests have been a part of a broader pattern of actions by the Indian government, which has cited national security concerns to ban over 200 Chinese mobile applications, including TikTok, WeChat, and UC Browser, since June 2020. Additionally, several Chinese companies have been embroiled in tax controversies, with the Indian Finance Ministry claiming that firms like Xiaomi, Realme, OPPO, Vivo, and OnePlus have evaded taxes totaling 90 billion rupees over the past six years.
Vivo reiterated it complies with Indian laws and will take all legal measures to defend itself. Chinese authorities urged India to foster fair, just, and non-discriminatory conditions for Chinese companies while providing consular assistance to affected citizens per regulations.