In addition to a three-year ban to sell its products in the New Delhi market, AB InBev could face criminal charges. A senior police officer told Reuters that an investigation in this case had been launched after city government asked the police to take a closer look at the matter.
"Considering the gravity of the offence, it is opined that even a harsher and exemplary punishment (than the ban) ... would have also been justified in this case," said the document that the Delhi administration sent to the police authorities last month.
AB InBev had been banned in July from selling its beers in India’s capital for the next three years after the company was found guilty for evading local taxes in Delhi. The local police conducted inspections in 2016 and found bottles of beer from SAB Miller which used duplicate barcodes to lower payments of excise duties. SAB Miller was acquired the same year by AB InBev which transferred the problem to the world’s leading brewer (inside.beer, 31.7.2019).
The news is another setback in the case for AB InBev after the Delhi High Court rejected last week the company’s appeal against the three-year sales ban. Although Justice A. K. Chawla did not want to give immediate relief, he said that the city government might have acted beyond its authority by imposing the ban. A next hearing is scheduled for Monday next week.
AB InBev accounts for a 17.5 percent market share in India’s growing beer market, selling brands like Budweiser, Hoegaarden and Stella Artois. This places the company second after United Breweries Holding with its main brand Kingfisher.
Per capita beer consumption in India is still below five liters, which is extremely low as compared to above 25 liters in other Asian countries. Paired with a fast growing population of 1.38 billion inhabitants in 2018 (which is more than one third of the global population), India is one of the most promising beer market in the world.