Confirming reports about an anti-espionage probe against Coca-Cola, China today said investigations were underway against the US soft drink giant for conducting illegal mapping in many sensitive areas.

An official statement said the administration has been informed that the Yunnan branch of the US-based soft drink giant was suspected of collecting geological information and data using illegal means.

Confirming reports that Coca-Cola faced investigation for espionage, state media said the company is being probed by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geo-information after reports of illegal surveying activities.

Reports had earlier said the provincial administration of surveying, mapping and geo-information of Yunnan had announced at a meeting that Coca-Cola had used GPS devices to carry out illegal surveying in the south-western border province.

Such media reports were described as “inaccurate” by a Yunnan administration official.

“We have not released that kind of information and we don’t know why the media has chosen to publish such information,” Han Qixiang, a provincial administration official was quoted by State-run Xinhua news agency as saying.

Han did not disclose any details about the case, citing national security concerns.

Yunnan lies along China’s border with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

Coca-Cola yesterday denied conducting any illegal surveying activity, adding that it is cooperating with authorities in charge of the investigation.

The company said some of its bottling plants use surveying technology, such as electronic maps, to improve their logistical efficiency.

It did not mention the GPS claims mentioned in the media.

Chinese law forbids foreign organisations and individuals from conducting surveying activities in its territory without permission.

Violators may have their surveying equipment confiscated, be forced to pay fines ranging from 10,000 to 500,000 yuan ($1,600 to $79,750) or be ordered to leave the country.

(This article was published on March 15, 2013)
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