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India's anti-money laundering agency searches edtech giant Byju's offices

India's crime-fighting agency searched three premises of edtech giant Byju's and its founder Byju Raveendran, it said Saturday, and seized various "incriminating" documents and digital data.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) said it conducted the searches under the provisions of the nation's anti-money laundering law FEMA, but declined to elaborate. The agency has conducted several similar probes in recent months, including at crypto firms WazirX and CoinSwitch Kuber, phonemaker Vivo and news broadcaster the BBC.

The agency said "various" complaints from private individuals prompted the investigation. As part of the probe into Byju's, which is ongoing, ED said it summoned Raveendran "several" times but the founder "remained evasive and never appeared during the investigation."

The probe has so far found that Byju's raised about $3.4 billion in foreign direct investment during the period of 2011 to 2023. During this period, the startup remitted about $1.1 billion to foreign entities and labeled about $115 million as advertisement and marketing expense.

It appears that part of what prompted ED to conduct the investigation was the delayed filing of annual financials by Byju's. The so-called findings -- how much money Byju's raised, and later invested in overseas units -- have been widely disclosed by Byju's and reported by media earlier.

"The company has not prepared its financial statements since financial year 2020-21 and has not got the accounts audited, which is mandatory. Hence, the genuineness of the figures provided by the company are being cross examined from the banks," ED said in a statement Sunday.

The Bengaluru-headquartered Byju's, which is India's most valuable startup and which counts BlackRock, Sequoia India, Lightspeed Venture Partners India and UBS among its backers, termed the searches by the agency as "a routine inquiry," and said the startup maintains complete transparency with the authorities and has provided all the information that was requested.

"We have nothing but the utmost confidence in the integrity of our operations, and we are committed to upholding the highest standards of compliance and ethics. We will continue to work closely with the authorities to ensure that they have all the information they need, and we are confident that this matter will be resolved in a timely and satisfactory manner. We want to emphasize that it is business as usual at Byju's," a spokesperson of Byju's legal team said in a statement.

"We are committed to delivering high-quality educational products and services to our customers across India and the world."

ED's statement comes at a time when Byju's is closing a large funding round and is gearing up for the IPO of its subsidiary unit physical tutor chain Aakash.