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Wal-Mart is launching an investigation into claims that executives bribed officials in Mexico to expedite store openings in the early 2000s.
A recent story in The New York Times claimed that Wal-Mart discovered evidence of bribes amounting to more than $24 million paid to Mexican officials.
A Wal-Mart vice chairman, Eduardo Castro-Wright, who is scheduled to retire on July 1st of this year, has been implicated in the case. Specifically, suspicions rose when the payments started “after his arrival at Wal-Mart de Mexico in 2001.”
Wal-Mart spokesperson David Tovar stated, “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.”
Wal-Mart’s board auditing committee began the most recent investigation, but the company has not come up with any definitive conclusions on the case.
The 2005 investigation involved the examination of many internal documents and more than 15 hours worth of interviews with former Wal-Mart de Mexico executive Sergio Cicero Zapata. Zapata gave information about “years of payoffs to government officials.” Also, the examined documents indicated that many stores were permitted to open within weeks or days after payments from Wal-Mart De Mexico were made to two outside lawyers who paid officials in cash.
According to The New York Times, in February of 2006, Wal-Mart transferred the investigation to Jose Luis Rodriguezmacedo, who was the general counsel of the Mexican subsidiary at the time. After a matter of weeks, he determined that there was no evidence of bribery to Mexican government officials.
Outside advisers have also been brought in to look into this matter. Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade commented that the officials “don’t have enough elements” for an investigation, and “when we have enough, we’ll decide how to proceed.”