India Might Investigate Wal-Mart's Operations There

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, already conducting its own internal investigations into its various foreign operations, might soon come under the scrutiny of the Indian government.

Bloomberg reports today what's been building for awhile now: the possibility that India will investigate how the world's largest retailer might spent money lobbying to enter that country’s lucrative retail market.

“We have learnt from press reports of the reported disclosure by Wal-Mart under the U.S. laws of the amount spent by them on lobbying in various countries, including India,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said today in the legislature. “The government has no hesitation in having an inquiry” to establish the facts.

Wal-Mart spent as much as $25 million since 2008 on discussions regarding its foreign investments, including in the Indian retail industry, the Press Trust of India reported on Dec. 9, citing disclosure reports the company filed with the U.S. Senate. Opposition legislators disrupted parliament for a second day, demanding to know whether any of this money was spent in India, where corporate lobbying is not allowed.

As we've noted, Indian regulators have been taking a hard look at Wal-Mart's $100 billion deal with Bharti Retail, which operates more than 200 supermarkets in India, and the web of companies Wal-Mart set up to enter the market.

In November, Wal-Mart's Indian joint venture announced that it had suspended several employees as part of its internal corruption investigation.

As for this specific case, Wal-Mart tells Bloomberg that accusations that Wal-Mart spent money to lobby in India are "entirely false."

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