India launches probe against Wal-Mart: official


Indian authorities are investigating allegations that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. violated foreign exchange rules when it invested $100 million into a domestic unit owned by its wholesale joint-venture partner, a senior law enforcement official told Reuters on Friday.

The decision to probe Wal-Mart comes after an Indian lawmaker wrote to the prime minister earlier this year, raising allegations of potential violations of investment rules, and the complaint was subsequently passed from one government department to another.

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"Yes, the Enforcement Directorate has initiated an investigation into the allegations against Wal-Mart," said the official, who declined to be named.

"The probe is at an early stage and therefore (it is) difficult to say what the outcome will be."

Wal-Mart has denied the allegations since they first surfaced last month.

"We are in compliance with India's FDI laws. All procedures and processes have been duly followed and details filed with relevant Indian government authorities, including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)," a Wal-Mart spokesman said.

"The central Government has sought certain information and clarification, which has been provided by us. We are not in a position to offer further comments as the matter is before the courts."

The lawmaker accused Wal-Mart of "clandestinely and illegally" investing $100 million in the multi-brand retail business of its wholesale joint venture partner, Bharti Enterprises, as early as 2010, before India allowed foreign companies to operate front-end stores.

(Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in MUMBAI; Writing by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Ken Wills)