Wal-Mart not under Indian scanner, says Sharma

Commerce minister Anand Sharma on Sunday clarified that there was no probe by India into bribery allegations against US retail giant Wal-Mart, adding that agencies were look into violations if any.

The world's largest retailer disclosed last week that it had launched its own internal investigations into allegations of corrupt practices and alleged violations of US anti-bribery laws in India, China and Brazil, expanding a similar ongoing investigation in Mexico.

Reports last week had suggested that India's Enforcement Directorate had launched a separate probe into Wal-Mart's practices. "Allegations are allegations. In a rule-based and rule-governed country, if there is any violation there are agencies which are there to look into it," Sharma told journalists en route to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh along with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when asked to comment about the allegations involving Wal-Mart.

"I should not comment on the alleged FEMA violations which are yet to be probed and even finance minister P Chidambaram has said that he is yet to get any report," Sharma said.

At the same time, he said there would have been no violations since September when the foreign direct investment decision was notified with only one change about dispensation of landlocked states which do not have cities with population of five million.

Wal-Mart has not specified specific charges of corruption in any of the countries it has mentioned but said it is probing allegations of potential violations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of the US.

The FCPA bars bribing officials of foreign governments.

The allegations have come at a time when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is pushing hard its reform agenda, including FDI in multi-brand retail.
 
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday termed the graft allegations as a "serious issue", and demanded a probe into the matter as well as a reply by the government.