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Mexico launches investigation into Wal-Mart bribery scandal

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The Mexican unit of retail-giant Wal-Mart, Walmex, is accused of bribing Mexican officials in an attempt to obtain permits for expansion of its branches.

Mexico’s Federal Comptroller’s Office has launched an inquiry into bribery charges against a Mexican unit of the American retail-giant Wal-Mart for allegedly bribing Mexican officials to obtain expansion permits.

The comptroller’s office announced Wednesday that it has embarked on auditing federal paperwork and permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico or Walmex, and that it would ask US authorities for information on the case, Reuters reported.

In case any violation is detected, the Mexican federal government would bring the respective public officials to justice, the supervisory body added.

The announcement came on the same day Mexican President Felipe Calderon lashed out at the Wal-Mart subsidiary during a speech in Houston, Texas, saying the scandal had made him “very indignant.”

Guillermo Tamborrel, a senator from Calderon’s conservative National Action Party, denounced the scam as an incident that “tarnished Mexico’s reputation,” saying, “We cannot let an international company come and corrupt our authorities.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Walmex said the company had not been notified about any such probe yet.

On Sunday, a New York Times report alleged that Walmex managers in Mexico silenced an internal investigation into hundreds of suspect payments worth more than USD 24 million made to expand its business in Mexico.

If the allegations are proved accurate, the company would be guilty of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a US law which prohibits the bribing of foreign officials to develop business abroad.

The world’s largest retailer already faces a criminal probe by the US Department of Justice over potential violations of the FCPA.

Shares of Wal-Mart reflected a 4.43-percent downturn in Monday afternoon trading.


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