Bribery case: CVC rejects Walmart India’s arguments

  • Mahua Venkatesh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 19, 2016 23:31 IST
The Central Vigilance Commission has sought help from the United Nations Conventions Against Corruption in regards to the Walmart bribery case. (REUTERS)

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has rejected Walmart India’s arguments in relation to an alleged bribery case involving the company.

The US retail giant allegedly paid bribes to several customs officials to facilitate movement of goods through customs or secure real estate approvals.

“Meetings with top executives have been held on the issue and the company has furnished information on the case, but the CVC has asked for more details and we are expecting that to come soon,” TM Bhasin, vigilance commissioner, told HT.

When contacted, a Walmart spokesperson did not respond to HT’s requests for comments.

The anti-corruption watchdog, which has held a few meetings with top company executives on the issue, has also sought assistance from the United Nations Conventions Against Corruption (UNCAC) to get relevant details from the parent company in the US. In November last year, the anti-corruption body had summoned top officials of the company in India in relation to the case.

The UNCAC is a multilateral convention negotiated by members of the United Nations. Member-countries are bound by the Convention to render mutual legal assistance towards prosecution of offenders as well in tracing, freezing, and confiscating the proceeds of corruption.

The UNCAC has agreed to co-operate with the CVC on the issue, Bhasin said. “We are hoping to get the information within the next few weeks and we hope that the case can be concluded in the next few months.”

The ministry of corporate affairs had, in 2013, launched an investigation into lobbying by the US retail giant, an issue that rocked Parliament. A one-man committee of former chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal was set up to investigate the matter.

According to reports, thousands of junior officials were paid to help move goods through customs or obtain real estate permits.

HT was the first to report on November 23, 2015 that a top Walmart India official had been summoned by the CVC regarding the alleged bribery case.

Walmart’s earlier joint venture with Bharti in India had come under the scanner amid allegations that it may have entered the front-end multi-brand retail business two-and-a-half years before the government actually lifted the ban on foreign investors in the sector in 2012. Bharti parted ways with Walmart in 2013.

Walmart is under probe on whether its investment of Rs 455.80 crore ($100 million in March 2010) in Cedar Support Services (earlier Bharti Retail Holdings) via compulsorily convertible debentures flouted foreign investment norms.

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