Wal-Mart defends itself against claims it stopped bribery probe

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GLOBAL grocery giant Wal-Mart said it is “working hard” to get to the bottom of claims of corruption in Mexico, after reports alleged that it had “hushed up” an internal bribery probe.

The New York Times had reported that in 2005, management at Wal-Mart closed an investigation into bribes paid to secure building permits.

Wal-Mart sent investigators to Mexico City and found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totalling more than $24m, the NYT reported, but the company’s leaders then shut down the investigation and notified neither US nor Mexican law enforcement officials.

Wal-Mart said it started an “extensive” probe last autumn, which is still being conducted by lawyers and forensic accountants, over whether its activities comply with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“Many of the alleged activities in The New York Times article are more than six years old,” said a Wal-Mart spokesperson in a statement. “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.”

It added that it has already beefed up its anti-corruption safeguards across Mexico, where it has more than 2,000 stores and nearly 200,000 employees.