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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Committee set up to probe charges against Walmart

PTI  New Delhi, January 24, 2013
First Published: 20:04 IST(24/1/2013) | Last Updated: 20:08 IST(24/1/2013)

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

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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 Walmart before the US Senate regarding their lobbying activities and details (and) whether Walmart 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 Walmart, 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 Walmart with the US Senate, the company has spent close to $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 $1.65 million (about Rs. 10 crore) on various lobbying issues, which included "discussions related to FDI in India".

Bharti Walmart 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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