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India raids offices of smartphone maker Vivo

Mumbai, India: Chinese smartphone maker Vivo said on Tuesday it was “cooperating with authorities” in India after reports that investigators raided dozens of its offices on suspicion of money laundering.

The raids make Vivo the latest Chinese tech company to come under scrutiny from Indian investigative agencies after similar raids on Xiaomi and Huawei earlier this year.

A spokesperson for Vivo confirmed that the Directorate of Law Enforcement – India’s financial crime agency – raided several locations and seized the company’s assets.

“Vivo is cooperating with the authorities to provide them with all the information required,” the spokesperson told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “We are committed to being fully compliant with the laws.”

Vivo specializes in budget handsets and had carved out 15% of India’s competitive smartphone market last year, according to data from tech research firm Counterpoint.

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Multi-year sponsorships of popular sporting events, like the Indian Premier League T20 cricket tournament, have helped Vivo’s brand become a household name in the South Asian country since its market debut in 2012.

Vivo’s parent company BBK Electronics also owns rival brand Oppo, which sells OnePlus and Realme smartphones and tablets.

Relations between India and China are at their lowest since a deadly military confrontation in the Himalayas between the two nations in 2020.

In the aftermath, India’s Home Ministry banned hundreds of Chinese-origin mobile apps, including the hugely popular social media platform TikTok.

The government justified the bans as a necessary safeguard against threats to India’s sovereignty.

Anti-China sentiment has grown in India since the deadly troop clash in 2020, sparking calls for a consumer boycott of Chinese goods.

But the East Asian country continues to be a key economic partner for India, with more than $125 billion in two-way trade last year.

Vivo manufactures 50 million devices and employs 10,000 Indians at a factory near the capital New Delhi, the spokesperson told AFP.

India is home to the second highest number of smartphone users after China.

Its smartphone market grew 27% year-over-year in 2021, according to Counterpoint, with annual sales exceeding 169 million units.