Committee to wind up Wal-Mart investigations by June

Written by feBureau | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 11 2013, 07:19am hrs
The government appointed one-man Wal-Mart probe panel is expected to compelete its investigations into allegations of lobbying against the US retail giant by June. The panel, set up by the government in January, was earlier scheduled to submit its report by April 30, but its tenure is likely to be extended.

The panel, headed by former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal, held its fourth meeting on Wednesday. It was attended by Walmart representatives along with senior officials from the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) and the department of industrial policy and promotion, among others.

The last meeting was attended by Walmart Asia President and CEO Scott Price, along with other representatives of Walmart Asia and Bharti Walmart Pvt Ltd.

"We discussed the reply given by Walmart and decided to seek some supplementary questions to them," Mudgal told reporters after the meeting. The Panel, during its last meeting on March 22, had sought details about Walmart's lobbying activities in the US with regard to its plans to enter the Indian market.

When asked as to when the panel expected to complete its probe, Mudgal said: "It would depend on the replies given by Walmart and if at all a little extension is sought, it won't go beyond June."

Mudgal said the date of next meeting has not been decided yet and it would also depend on Walmart's replies. Asked whether Walmart executives would be summoned again, Mudgal said: "Most probably not."

In the wake of reports about Walmart's lobbying among the US lawmakers since 2008 for facilitating its entry into Indian market, the government in December 2012 had assured Parliament to get the matter probed by a retired judge. The committee is also looking into "whether Walmart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law", and any other matter relevant to this issue.

As per Congressional records of lobbying disclosure reports, the company spent a total amount of $ 6.13 million (about Rs 33 crore) on lobbying for various issues, including on "discussions related to FDI in India", during entire 2012.

The panel, to which the Corporate Affairs Ministry is providing administrative support, has also discussed responses received to a public notice, wherein information was solicited from the general public on the matter. Separately, the regulatory agencies here are also probing allegations of bribery against Walmart in India.