New Delhi: Officials of the retail giant Walmart have been summoned by a government panel probing the bribery allegations made against the company. Walmart officials will now meet the probe committee on March 22.
US officials are also expected to be present during the meet. First meeting of the Walmart probe panel was attended by 3 secretaries of Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
The MCA, DIPP and MEA secretaries have been asked to submit information to probe committee. The one-man Inquiry Committee, headed by former Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court Justice Mukul Mudgal, would submit the probe report to the government by April. At a meeting held in New Delhi on Thursday, which was attended by top government officials including those from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the committee decided to call senior Wal-Mart executives for inquiring into the company's lobbying activities and India business plans, sources said.
The executives of the global retail behemoth could be called sometime later in March, they added. The Committee is being provided administrative and functional support by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in its probe and the ministry had last month asked the general public to provide it with all the important information available with them on the Wal-Mart issue.
The Indian government initiated the probe into the lobbying activities by Wal-Mart in the US for gaining access to Indian market, after disclosures about these activities caused a furore and a political debate in India in December. Following reports about Wal-Mart's lobbying activities among the US lawmakers since 2008 for facilitating its access to Indian market, the government late last year assured in Parliament to get the matter probed by a retired judge.
Subsequently, the government set up the inquiry committee, whose terms of reference include inquiring into "media reports on disclosures of Wal-Mart before the US Senate regarding their lobbying activities and details thereof." The committee is also looking into "whether Wal-Mart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law", and any other matter relevant to this issue.
In the meantime, Wal-Mart has continued to lobby with the American lawmakers on issues related to foreign investment norms in India, as also others, and spent a total amount of $6.13 million on the same during entire 2012. As per the latest Congressional records of lobbying disclosure reports, the US-based Wal-Mart Stores spent a total amount of $1.48 million (about Rs eight crore) on lobbying for various issues, including on "discussions related to FDI in India", during the last quarter ended December 31, 2012.
This has taken the total lobbying bill of the company for entire 2012 to $6.13 million (about Rs 33 crore), the lobbying disclosure records available with the US Senate show.
(With Additional Inputs by PTI)