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David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab at The New York Times wrote a lengthy expose on Walmart’s bribery scandal in Mexico.The story follows up on Barstow’s earlier story about what got Walmart in trouble in the first place. Investigators are looking into the world’s biggest retailer’s dealings in the country, and some of Walmart’s senior management appear to be entangled.
The bribes were paid to win permission to open new stores quickly, and may have totaled more than $24 million, The Times alleged.
Now, more details about Walmart’s practices in the country have emerged.
From The Times:
- The Times alleges that Walmart paid bribes of $341,000 to build a Sam’s Club in one of the most densely-populated neighborhoods in Mexico City near the Basilica de Guadalupe. The company did this “without a construction licence, or an environmental permit, or an urban impact assessment, or even a traffic permit,” the NYT writes.
- Walmart allegedly facilitated bribes of $765,000 so it could build “a vast refrigerated distribution centre in an environmentally fragile flood basin north of Mexico City, in an area where electricity was so scarce that many smaller developers were turned away.”
- In 2003, a zoning map kept Walmart from building a mid-sized supermarket near resident Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field in San Juan Teotihuacan, near the site of the famous pyramids. According to the Times, a bribery payment of $52,000 persuaded an official to change the map. Walmart built a store in the field.
- The mayor of Teotihuacan, Guillermo Rodríguez, reported in disclosures that he had no savings and made a salary of only $47,000 per year in 2004, according to the Times. The same year, he paid $30,300 in cash for a ranch and spent another $47,700 cash on improvements to the home.
- Archaeologists began to find evidence that Walmart “was building on ancient ruins. They found the remains of a wall dating to approximately 1300 and enough clay pottery to fill several sacks. Then they found an altar, a plaza and nine graves.” A media blitz ensued.
- Locals began publicly protesting that Walmart was allegedly building on ancient ruins.Anonymous sources who worked at Walmart Corporate at the time said that protesters in Mexico were dismissed as “a fringe group, like they were from Occupy Wall Street.” The market still opened.
- Emmanuel D’Herrera, a local teacher and poet, became convinced that Walmart was paying bribes and went to the news media. After years of publicly slamming Walmart, D’Herrera made a homemade bomb and set it off in the store. It caused $68 in merchandise damage and knocked him to the ground. He died at the age of 62 while he was waiting for trial.
A Walmart spokesman defended the company, saying that “none of the associates we have interviewed, including people responsible for real estate projects in Mexico during this time period, recall any mention of bribery allegations related to this store.”
CEO Mike Duke declined to give any details on the bribery investigation at a recent talk in New York City with Bloomberg president Dan Doctoroff, pending the investigation.
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