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Bribery, Cover-Up Alleged at Walmart Mexico

NEW YORK — Walmart Mexico paid out millions of dollars in bribes to Mexican officials to facilitate the company’s rapid expansion there, according to a New York Times report.

The payments could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the report stated.

Eduardo Castro-Wright, who led Wal-Mart’s Mexico operations until early 2005 and later ran the company’s U.S. division, was the “driving force” behind “years of bribery” in which more than $24 million was paid to local officials in Mexico, the article claimed.

Wal-Mart had looked into the allegations, and its lead investigator concluded that there was “reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated,” the New York Times reported. The article claims that top Wal-Mart officials then basically swept the matter under the carpet and shut down the investigation, and did not notify authorities until after they had learned of the Times’ reporting.

Both Castro-Wright, who is scheduled to retire as Wal-Mart vice chairman in July, and H. Lee Scott, who was chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores at the time, declined to comment to the Times.

In a statement provided to SN, David Tovar, vice president of corporate communications, Wal-Mart, said the company launched an investigation into FCPA compliance last fall through the audit committee of its board of directors.

“We take compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act very seriously and are committed to having a strong and effective global anti-corruption program in every country in which we operate,” Tovar said. “We will not tolerate noncompliance with FCPA anywhere or at any level of the company.

“Many of the alleged activities in The New York Times article are more than six years old. If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for. We are deeply concerned by these allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened.”

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