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Walmart lobbying inquiry inconclusive; fresh probe likely

Publish Date: 30 Jun 2013, 03:36 PM
Last Updated: 30 Jun 2013, 06:13 PM
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Fresh probe likely in Walmart lobbying case
Fresh probe likely in Walmart lobbying case

New Delhi: Walmart may face a fresh probe into its lobbying activities for entering India, after issues raised by a one-man inquiry committee, set up by the government earlier this year to look into this matter, were stonewalled by the global retailer.

The inquiry conducted by the panel remained inconclusive and it was not satisfied with the replies provided by the US-based retail giant on various issues, including on the exact amount spent on its India-specific lobbying activities, sources said.

Pursuant to the suggestions made by the committee, which also observed that it lacked necessary "investigative or summoning powers" to conclude that Walmart indulged in lobbying and bribery for India operations, the government is considering initiating further investigations into the matter, they added.

Separately, Walmart is already facing a probe by the Enforcement Directorate here for alleged violation of FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) norms.

Walmart, on its part, has maintained that it has disclosed all its lobbying activities as per the US rules and it did not violate any Indian regulations in this regard.

The committee, headed by former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal, was set up in January after the government announced in Parliament that it would get investigated the issue of Walmart having lobbied hard before the US lawmakers for access to lucrative Indian retail market.

After looking into the matter for about three-and-a-half months, the committee submitted its report last month to the Corporate Affairs Ministry. Besides US, the panel also tried to look into Walmart's lobbying activities with government officials in India.

An 'Action Taken Report' is being prepared after taking into account the comments from the Corporate Affairs Ministry, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and the External Affairs Ministry, sources said.

The same would be first presented to the Cabinet and then would be placed before the Parliament in the next session.

In the meantime, Walmart last week had announced a sudden exit of Raj Jain, head of its Indian venture with Bharti group, and a further probe into the company's affairs could also look into this development.

Jain and Walmart Asia President & CEO Scott Price were the key managerial personnel who represented the company before the inquiry panel.

The committee has said in its report that it was not satisfied with the replies from the company and its representatives on various matters and "nothing conclusive could be established" about Walmart's lobbying activities.

(Agencies)

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