Business, Economics and Jobs

Wal-Mart: Mexico must investigate bribery allegations, civil society group says


A protest against a planned Wal-Mart is seen Teotihuacan, Mexico State, in October, 2004.

Faced with allegations that local officials accepted $24 million in bribes from the US retailer Wal-Mart, the Mexican government has so far said nothing. But a local anticorruption organization is calling on the government in Mexico City to undertake a thorough investigation, according to The Associated Press.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Wal-Mart had scuttled and buried an internal investigation that revealed widespread bribery in Mexico as part of a company effort to win market dominance there. In a statement that day, Wal-Mart said it took the allegations very seriously and was conducting its own internal investigation.

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Twenty-percent of all Wal-Mart stores are now in Mexico and the retail giant is now Mexico’s largest private employer, according to the AP.

In the statement, Wal-Mart’s Vice President for communications David Tovar said “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.”

The company also released this YouTube video of Tovar’s statement:

Under a 1977 law, it is a crime for any publicly-traded US corporation or its agents to pay bribes to foreign government officials. The US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission have routinely pursued such cases, winning large penalties and disgorgement of ill-gotten profits from companies such as Siemens, Halliburton, Daimler and Chevron.

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According to the AP, Eduardo Bohorquez, director of Transparencia Mexicana, said the Mexican government was required to undertake an investigation by international treaty to investigate. According to the AP, the bribery does not concern federal officials in Mexico.

Mexico was among the first countries to ratify the 2003 UN Convention Against Corruption in 2004.