Retail major Wal-Mart probing anti-corruption practices in five countries
WASHINGTON - US-based retail chain major Wal-Mart Stores Inc on Wednesday said it was tightening the anti-corruption norms as part of a review of global practices and processes, and follows the recommendations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the US bars bribes to officials of foreign governments.
The move follows Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking members of two House committees, urging the company to look into anti-corruption policies and operations in Brazil, China, Mexico, India and South Africa.
Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said his company has expanded the investigation to include India and South Africa following a request from the congressmen to Wal-Mart Chief Executive Michael Duke earlier this week.
"We're initiating a worldwide review," Tovar said. "They list five [countries.] We're looking at every country in which we operate."
The investigation stems from allegations that Eduardo Castro-Wright, the former CEO of Wal-Mart de Mexico and former head of Wal-Mart US, orchestrated $24 million worth of alleged bribes in Mexico to streamline construction projects, dating from 2005.
The congressmen have in particular sought more information about Maritza Munich, a former general counsel of Wal-Mart's international division, who the committee called "a key figure in the investigation."
The attorneys from the law firms Greenberg Traurig and Akin Gump said the review initially focused on Brazil, China and Mexico because they represent the highest corruption risk. But later based on the review, they recommended that Wal-Mart also evaluate its operations in India and South Africa, reports AP.
Independently carrying out a separate probe, the congressmen in their letter have alleged "Wal-Mart's actions to date significantly inhibit our ability to investigate these allegations."
The letter charges that Wal-Mart has not been helpful and insisted on communicating through its lawyers, rather than its officials, in regard to "potential violations of the FCPA."
Denying the allegation, Tovar said his company has, in fact, been cooperating with Congress as it investigates the world's largest retailer's compliance with the international corruption law.
"We take compliance with the FCPA very seriously," said Tovar. "We're cooperating with the ongoing investigation and we'll continue to assist the congressional investigation."
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