Wal-Mart Stores Inc allegedly payed bribes worth millions of dollars to Indian officials to help move goods and obtain clearances from customs officials, the Wall Street Journal(WSJ) reported Monday.
The findings emerged from a probe after the New York Times broke a series of investigative stories alleging Walmart payed substantial bribes in Mexico to facilitate its business. However it emerges that the quantum of bribes may be much more in India than Mexico, WSJ added.
"Much of the suspected bribery investigators unearthed in India involves thousands of small payments to low-level local officials to help move goods through customs or obtain real-estate permits," investigators told WSJ, "The vast majority of the suspicious payments were less than USD 200, and some were as low as USD 5," it said. "But when added together they totalled millions of dollars."
The world's largest retailer entered India in 2007 through a supermarket joint venture with Bharti Enterprises but split up in 2013 and has since mostly focused on its wholesale business.
Wal-Mart, which was pushing the previous UPA regime for opening of the multi-brand retail sector, was also involved in lobbying before the US Congress in this regard according to Congressional disclosure reports have said in the past few years.
According to the report, Wal-Mart's massive bribery efforts are unlikely to bring in any penalty on it as its Indian operation does not yield any profit under the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of the United States.
"Because penalties under the FCPA are often connected to the amount of profit the alleged misconduct generated, the payments in India wouldn't be likely to result in any sizable penalty, since Wal-Mart's operations there haven't been particularly profitable, said people familiar with the matter," the daily reported.
There was no immediate response from Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters in the US on the Wall Street Journal's story.
Wal-Mart's Indian unit reportedly had suffered a loss of Rs 232 crore in 2014. Its revenue had dropped 32 per cent to Rs 2,992.7 crore in that year.
(With inputs from PTI)