Bribes Made: Walmart in Bribery Scandal

Walmart has over 10,000 stores worldwide with $444 billion in sales in 2011 alone. Of those 10,000 stores, 2,088 are in Mexico, its largest foreign outpost, where the mega-retailer is embroiled in a scandal over bribing local government officials to expedite its expansion there. And according to The New York Times, not only did Walmart’s top executives know about the corruption south of the border, but they tried to cover it up before shutting down an internal investigation.

Bribes Made: Walmart in Bribery Scandal

The face of corruption

An email from a Walmart lawyer in 2005 revealed that Walmart de Mexico had doled out bribes to obtain permits in “virtually every corner of the country,” the Times reported Saturday, naming names, dates and amounts of the bribes. The lawyer a Mr. Sergio Cicero Zapata, it turns out, was the guy in charge of obtaining building permits for Walmart de Mexico.

Following the email, Walmart sent investigators to Mexico City where within days they uncovered a paper trail leading to hundreds of payments, totaling over $24 million. These investigators also found evidence that Walmart’s top tier execs — spearheaded by then Walmart de Mexico’s chief executive officer Eduardo Castro-Wright –  had tried to shield this corruption from headquarters back in Bentonville, Ark.

The lead investigator reported that there was “reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws” had been violated and recommended expanding the investigation. That’s when Walmart’s head honchos — fearing the besmirchment of the chain’s good-ish name — shut that shit down, without notifying US or Mexican law enforcement.

Walmart, however, is denying the Times‘ claims that it nixed the internal investigation. “If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for,” Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar told WWD. “We are deeply concerned by these allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened…and are committed to conducting a complete investigation before forming conclusions.”

“Unfortunately, he added, “we realize that, at this point, there are some unanswered questions. We wish we could say more but we will not jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.” I mean…why stop now? [NYT, WWD, sub req'd]