Apple is under scrutiny for what a Russian regulatory agency says may be bribery of government officials, Russian news agency Regnum reported Wednesday. The Cupertino company has planned a week-long seminar in the United Kingdom for several Russian officials who handle government purchases just as the country is about to spend millions updating educational technology resources.
The article claims that Apple plans to host its Russian guests in four-star hotels in the heart of London, provide seminars on the advantages of Apple products, and take private tours of Apple Retail Stores after business hours.
The Russian National Anti-Corruption Committee (NAC) argues that there is evidence that Apple not only hosted its guests, but also paid for their travel expenses. Apple reportedly claimed that it had only paid for the travel of its own employees to the seminar, and not the Russian officials.
However, it is the timing of the seminar which most concerns the NAC. Russia is about to commence a major modernization project funded by the federal government. New equipment and services worth up to US$66.5 million will be spent in each of the country’s 83 regions. Many key government officials responsible for spending those funds were reportedly on Apple’s guest list.
Because the funds are public, a stricter level of scrutiny applies to how they are spent, and how private companies compete for projects. Apple’s actions may constitute bribery under the NAC’s interpretation, and the committee is calling for a deeper investigation by the Russian Audit Chamber.
Apple has made a renewed effort to invade the education market in recent years. Education pricing for relatively low-maintenance Macs and the potential of devices like the iPad to improve learning have resulted in increased investment by governments around the world in Apple products.
Apple has yet to make additional comment on the NAC’s claims, but the Cupertino company may have been too aggressive in its latest marketing approach, even in a nation that is hardly free from corruption.