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Bharti WalMart CFO suspended in graft probe

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 23, 2012
First Published: 11:08 IST(23/11/2012) | Last Updated: 23:11 IST(23/11/2012)

Bharti WalMart has suspended five executives including its chief financial officer (CFO) and four members of its legal team as part of the US retail giant's ongoing global investigation against alleged corrupt practices.


"We are committed to conducting a complete and thorough investigation," a Bharti Walmart spokesperson said. " It would be inappropriate for us to comment further until we have finished the investigation."

The executives of Bharti Walmart were suspended on Tuesday and more suspensions may follow, sources said.

Last week Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, disclosed that it was investigating allegations of violation of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of the US, which bars bribing officials of foreign governments, in India and other countries including Mexico, China and Brazil.

"We have inquiries or investigations regarding allegations of potential FCPA violations in a number of foreign markets where we operate, including but not limited to Brazil, China and India. This is in addition to the ongoing investigation in Mexico," the company had said.

Bharti Walmart is a 50:50 joint venture between Bharti Group and WalMart stores, and runs wholesale stores under the Best Price Modern Wholesale brand.

WalMart's investment in Bharti Retail has also come under the scanner amid allegations that the former may have entered India's front-end multi-brand retail business on the sly two-and-a-half years before the government actually permitted foreign investors in the sector.

The Prime Minister's Office has forwarded an allegation to the department of industrial policy and promotion raised by CPI's Rajya Sabha MP,

P Achuthan, raising specific questions on Wal-Mart's investment of Rs. 455.80 crore in March 2010 in a company called Cedar Support Services through compulsorily convertible debentures.

Convertible debentures are instruments through which an investor exchanges funds, which it had lent, into equity or shares at later date, thus making them legitimate shareholders of the company.

The Enforcement Directorate is learnt to probing these charges as well.

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