The New York Times released a mammoth investigation that accuses Wal-Mart de Mexico of using millions to bribe Mexican officials, and then spending years covering their tracks. Wal-Mart de Mexico allegedly bribed their way into rapid expansion during the first half of the 2000s. The company paid everyone from mayors to city officials all across Mexico to speed up the development process and gain building permits faster. The company expanded so rapidly into Mexico, that now one in every five Wal-Mart stores is located there.
Deliverymen, or "gestores," allegedly took the bribes to local governments to speed up the process of getting a building permit. The gestores would submit a record of the payment to the company with secret codes on the bottom of the receipt to detail what the bribe was for and who was getting paid. Later, the company would "purify" the payments in their record, writing them in as simple legal fees. An internal investigation done by Wal-Mart found that nearly $16 million was payed directly to Mexican governments since 2003.
The whole thing is a dizzying investigation of bureaucratic corruption that has gone largely unchecked for years. The company itself closed its internal investigation in 2006, but by that time it had been stripped of any information that would imply the company did anything wrong. They haven't mentioned it since then. After hearing about the Times' reporting, Wal-Mart informed the Justice Department in December that they were opening a new internal investigation and that they might have broken U.S. and Mexican laws, but only in "discrete" cases.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.