India appoints retired judge to lead Wal-Mart bribery inquiry

Nathan Andrada – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

New Delhi, India (4E) – India’s minister for parliamentary affairs said on Wednesday that the Indian government has appointed a retired judge to lead an investigation into allegations of the lobbying activities by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said that the government will appoint a retired judge to conduct a time-bound inquiry looking into the press reports about Wal-Mart.

These comments came after a two-day disruption in Parliament where opposition lawmakers tried to tie the U.S. government report of the retail giant’s lobbying activities with the bribery of Indian officials.

The issue of Wal-Mart’s lobbying in the U.S. to gain access in the Indian market created a heated controversy in Parliament and several parties demanded a time-bound inquiry by a Joint Parliamentary Committee or a judicial panel to determine if bribery did occur.

In its latest disclosure to U.S. Senate, Wal-Mart said it spent $25mn on lobbying over a four-year period and took action to enhance investment access in the Indian market.

Since the Indian government agreed to allow foreign retailers to set up joint ventures earlier this year, officials have been closely watching the activities of Wal-Mart. Factions opposing the move like the BJP said that the controversial reform will hurt small local-based shops.

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