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Walmart bribery charges: US lawmakers release papers

Last updated on: January 11, 2013 14:06 IST

Walmart bribery charges: US lawmakers release papers

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Yoshita Singh in New York

US lawmakers have released emails that show Wal-Mart's top leadership was aware of allegations of bribery in its Mexico operations as early as 2005 but the global retail giant said it has provided this information to law enforcement authorities as part of investigation into the bribery allegations.

Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Henry Waxman from California, who are investigating bribery charges at Wal-Mart's Mexico unit, announced on Thursday they had documents which confirmed that Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke and other high-ranking personnel were personally informed about the bribery allegations as early as  October 2005, according to a CNN report.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Wal-Mart is also facing allegations of bribery in its operations in India, China and Brazil and the retailer had said last November that it was broadening its investigation to look into these allegations.

The emails indicate that Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke and other top company officials had been informed as early as 2005 about bribes being made in the Mexico.

"It would be a serious matter if the CEO of one of our nation's largest companies failed to address allegations of a bribery scheme," Waxman and Cummings said in a letter written to Duke.

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Image: A Walmart Neighborhood Market store in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Photographs: Jacob Slaton/Reuters

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The company refuted claims made by the Congressmen saying that the information released in the emails was nothing new and had been provided by Wal-Mart to the investigating authorities.

"There is no new information in the letter released on Friday by Congressman Waxman and Congressman Cummings.

"This information has been part of the company's ongoing investigation of potential violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for more than a year and has been the subject of two New York Times articles," the retailer said in a statement.

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Image: A bank employee counts dollar notes in Bangkok.
Photographs: Sukree Sukplang/Reuters

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It added that the "letter from Congressmen Waxman and Cummings leaves the wrong impression that our public statements are contradicted by the information they released on Friday.

"The fact is, the chronology of events relied upon in their letter is inaccurate.

"The company statement referenced in their letter that appeared in the December 2012 New York Times story focused on events in 2004.

"The emails attached to the letter were sent almost a year later".

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The allegations of bribery were first reported by the New York Times last year.

Later the US daily published a detailed report on how the Wal-Mart affiliate in Mexico bribed local officials to open stores in desired locations and 'get what the law otherwise prohibited'.

Wal-Mart said it has provided 'extensive documentation' to the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the documents released by the Congressmen as part of its ongoing cooperation with the appropriate law enforcement agencies on this matter.

"We want to provide Members of Congress with whatever appropriate information we can to help them and we have already provided committee staff with multiple briefings.

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Photographs: Reuters

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"We are exploring ways to make additional information available and are committed to doing whatever we can to appropriately address their requests, consistent with maintaining the integrity of the ongoing federal investigation.

"We are committed to having a strong and effective global anti-corruption programme everywhere we operate and taking appropriate action for any instance of non-compliance".

The Congressmen cite a November 2005 email from Wal-Mart's then general council Maritza Munich to Duke and other senior Wal-Mart executives that informs them of charges related to bribes paid to obtain permits for the Teotihuacan, Mexico, store.

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Photographs: Reuters

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The email allegedly states that Wal-Mart gave the Teotihuacan Municipal Council 1.2 million pesos and the National Institute of Anthropology and History and its director a total of 900,000 pesos, according to the lawmakers.

Another email sent in October 2005 from Wal-Mart General Counsel Thomas Mars to Duke and executive vice president Tom Hyde referenced to bribes paid to obtain permits for the Teotihuacan site.


Photographs: Reuters

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