Bharti Walmart suspends CFO, 4 others


Bharti Walmart has suspended five people, including chief financial officer (CFO) Pankaj Madan, as part of an ongoing global investigation by the US retail major against alleged bribery and violations of the US anti-bribery law.

When contacted, a Bharti Walmart spokesperson confirmed the development adding, "We are committed to conducting a complete and thorough investigation. Walmart and Bharti have suspended a few associates pending the outcome of the investigation. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further until we have finished the investigation."

Pending the probe, the company has decided to put on hold the opening of new cash-and-carry wholesale stores in India and as the investigation unfolds, more suspensions may follow. Madan and four of the five-member legal team of Bharti Walmart, a 50:50 joint venture between Bharti Group and Walmart stores Inc, were suspended on Tuesday, as a part of the expansion of the ongoing investigations into potential violations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in Mexico to cover countries including Brazil, China and India. Last week, Walmart had informed the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about the expansion.

The firm was planning to open new stores in Sangli and Sholapur in Maharashtra and Anand in Gujarat in the next few weeks. In March of 2011, the spokesperson said that Walmart began conducting a worldwide review of its policies, practices and internal controls for FCPA compliance.

"Since the implementation of the global review and the enhanced anti-corruption compliance programs, the company has identified or been made aware of additional allegations regarding potential violations of the FCPA," the spokesperson said.

The Reserve bank of India has already asked the Enforcement Directorate to probe Walmart's investment in an arm of Bharti enterprises — Cedar Support Services Ltd — for alleged violations of forex laws, an allegation denied by Bharti. The company had maintained that all the procedures were as per the "law of the land".

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