CVC summons top Walmart India official in link to alleged bribery case | business | Hindustan Times
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CVC summons top Walmart India official in link to alleged bribery case

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has summoned a top official of Walmart India in relation to an alleged bribery case involving the company.

business Updated: Nov 03, 2015 23:26 IST
Mahua Venkatesh
Central Vigilance Commission
The company has been asked to give its response by November 15, TM Bhasin, vigilance commissioner, told HT.(HT Photo)

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has summoned a top official of Walmart India in relation to an alleged bribery case involving the company. The company has been asked to give its response by November 15, TM Bhasin, vigilance commissioner, told HT.

Walmart will be the CVC’s first case involving a private company. The anti-graft watchdog has decided to extend the ambit of investigation to the private sector as well in cases where there are alleged links with government bodies, departments or public sector undertakings (PSUs).

According to reports, Walmart allegedly paid huge bribes to several officials to facilitate movement goods through customs.

“The commission will from now on extend its probe to the private sector as well, wherever there is any reported involvement of government officials, departments or PSUs,” Bhasin said. “In case of Walmart, initial reports suggest that the company paid huge bribes to several customs officials for their own gain and that necessarily would mean that the company, too, would have to be put under the scanner.”

When contacted, Walmart spokesperson said: “We haven’t received any such request so far. For Walmart, compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other anti-corruption laws is key priority. We work closely with third-party compliance experts on support and training as we continuously review and strengthen our programs around the world.”

The involvement of all parties, including private sector firms and individuals working in them in cases of frauds and discrepancies, was critical to get to the bottom of such cases, Bhasin added.

Walmart’s earlier joint venture with Bharti in India had come under the scanner amid allegations that it may have entered India’s 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) through compulsorily convertible debentures flouted foreign investment norms.

The alleged nexus between the government and companies has been the subject of discussion.

Recently, the CVC referred the Rs 6,000-crore foreign exchange scam at Bank of Baroda to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Reserve Bank of India.

Other private companies are under probe for corruption, and may find the CVC lens turning on them. AgustaWestland, for instance, is under probe for allegedly bribing politicians and defence officers to get a contract to supply 12 AW101 helicopters.

Government auditor the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has faulted the UPA government for allocating coal blocks to private companies in an arbitrary manner, estimating a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer.