Retail India - Committee set up to probe charges against Wal-Mart

Jan 24 2013, 22:20 IST
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SummaryA one-man committee will probe whether US retail giant Wal-Mart had indulged in lobbying activities by violating Indian laws...

A one-man committee will probe whether US retail giant Wal-Mart had indulged in lobbying activities by violating Indian laws to gain access to its market, the government announced today, more than a month after a major uproar over the issue.

The Union Cabinet decided that the probe would be conducted by a retired judge of Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court, sources said.

The committee will submit its report within three months, an official statement said.

The committee will "inquire into recent media reports on disclosures of Wal-Mart before the US Senate regarding their lobbying activities and details (and) whether Wal-Mart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law," the statement added.

The panel, it said, will also look into "any other matter relevant or incidental to the above".

The move comes over a month after the issue created a major uproar and stalled proceedings of Parliament during the Winter session.

The uproar was triggered after reports said that Wal-Mart, waiting for years to open its supermarkets in India, has been lobbying with the US lawmakers since 2008 to facilitate its entry into the highly lucrative Indian market.

As per the lobbying disclosure reports filed by Wal-Mart with the US Senate, the company has spent close to USD 25 million (about Rs 125 crore) since 2008 on its various lobbying activities, including on the issues related to "enhanced market access for investment in India".

In the last quarter ended September 30, 2012, the company spent USD 1.65 million (about Rs 10 crore) on various lobbying issues, which included "discussions related to FDI in India".

Bharti Wal-Mart has already denied wrongdoing saying the allegations of corruption are "entirely false".

It had said the amount mentioned in its disclosure is a "compilation of expenses associated with staff, association dues, consultants and contributions spent in the US."

Lobbying is legal in the US.

Following uproar by Opposition parties, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath had announced that the government was ready for a probe and that it will be headed by a retired judge.

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