India Walmart lobby case 'closed': Report

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's investigation into whether Walmart may have bribed Indian officials to gain wider access to the country's vast market has been "closed" due to lack of evidence, a report said on Saturday.

The one-man committee of retired justice Mukul Mudgal probing the matter is likely to submit a report to the government next week saying there was no "adequate" evidence to suggest Walmart was involved in any unlawful activity in India, the Business Standard reported, quoting unnamed sources.

There was no immediate comment available from Walmart or the Indian government.

Walmart said in a routine disclosure report to the US Senate last year that it spent US$25 million (S$31.48 million)over four years on issues related to "enhanced market access for investment in India".

The report stirred a ruckus in India with opposition lawmakers who oppose the chain's entry, saying it will hurt local "mom and pop" stores, demanding an inquiry into whether Walmart made any illegal payments as part of its lobbying.

Mudgal was named by the New Delhi government in January to investigate if the chain broke any Indian laws, and he questioned top store executives including its Asia chief executive Scott Price as part of his inquiry.

Walmart announced in March it expected to suffer financial losses amid its own internal probe into corruption scandals involving foreign subsidiaries from Mexico, India, Brazil to China.

Last year, the Indian government allowed foreign supermarkets to establish 51-per cent joint ventures in the country as part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's drive to seek outside investment to perk up a sharply slowing economy.

While Walmart had said in 2012 it wants to launch its first store in India within two years, it is yet to make a proposal to the government for opening retail stores.

Until the law was changed, the $447-billion retail chain, the largest in the world, could only set up cash-and-carry outlets.

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