Investigators are looking into allegations that U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart’s unit in Mexico paid bribes to officials to speed the opening of stores during its expansion push in the country in the past decade, the Mexican government said.
“Verification has started at the federal level of the permits and other proceedings ... conducted by that company for the opening and operation of its stores in our country,” the Public Oversight Secretariat said in a statement.
The objective is to examine “alleged acts of corruption that employees of the Wal-Mart de Mexico company may have engaged in,” the secretariat, which is in charge of reviewing the legality of all official acts, said.
Wal-Mart said Saturday it was investigating its operations in Mexico following the publication of a story by The New York Times alleging that $24 million in bribes had been paid to Mexican officials in connection with the opening of stores.
“In case irregular conduct on the part of federal public servants is detected, the federal government will take the necessary action,” the secretariat said.
Mexico will ask the U.S. government for “information about the case that will allow the Public Oversight Secretariat to conduct the necessary investigations,” the secretariat said.
Investigators will gather evidence on the roles played by state and municipal officials, with the findings being provided to the “appropriate authorities,” the secretariat said.
Wal-Mart has more than 10,000 stores around the world, including 2,760 in Mexico and Central America.
The retail giant employs about 238,000 people just in its operations in Mexico and Central America.