Taxi-hailing startup Uber is in trouble as the company finds itself in the crosshairs of a federal probe for allegedly breaking overseas US privacy laws. The company has been through several controversies so far, and this potential bribery incident adds to them. Uber has begun an internal probe to get to the bottom of the matter.

Bribery in Asia?

Uber's business dealings in some countries in Asia could lead to further trouble for the company as the United States Justice Department has now instituted a federal probe into the company's conduct in Asia.

According to a report in Bloomberg, it could turn it into a criminal probe as well.

The basis of the probe lies in the murky payments made to the authorities in Indonesia. The company needed a zoning clearance for one of their offices in the country and it is believed that the payments were tied to that clearance. Uber made similar payments to the local police as well and all those transactions eventually showed up in the expense reports. The company's head in Indonesia, Alan Jiang was sent on a leave of absence by Uber and eventually, he quit. Bloomberg had tried to get in touch with Jiang regarding the whole episode but he did not respond to the overtures.

Uber could have been let off lightly by the US Justice Department had it reported these dealings voluntarily but their legal team's decision to not do so could land the company in the midst of a criminal probe for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Widespread problem?

According to the Bloomberg report, the happenings in Indonesia might not actually be an isolated incident and it could be the part of a wider problem in the American company's Asian operations. Uber has employed the services of the law firm O'Melvey & Myers to look into the company's books and identify any irregular payment made overseas.Suspicious payments are being investigated by attorneys in as many as five Asian countries in which Uber operates.

It has been revealed by those close to the developments that O'Melvey & Myers has unearthed a network of arrangements established by Uber that facilitated payments to officials in the Malaysian government.

Additionally, the company's conduct in regard to its business deals in Korea and China are also being probed. The latest storm could turn into another controversy that might further tarnish the already fragile reputation of one of the world's most valuable start-ups.