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Wal-Mart CEO knew of Mexico bribery claim, lawmakers say

Wal Mart de Mexico allegedly paid $52,000 (U.S.) to change a zoning map so it could open a store near the ancient pyramids in Teotihuacan, Mexico shown here.

HENRY ROMERO/REUTERS

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday released e-mails that appeared to show Wal-Mart chief executive Mike Duke knew as far back as 2005 of allegations that company representatives had bribed Mexican officials.

The e-mails appeared to contradict the company's public statements about a bribery scandal tied to its Mexican affiliate, Wal Mart de Mexico. Lawmakers said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. did not dispute the authenticity of the e-mails.

In two reports last year, the New York Times described how Walmex used large bribes throughout Mexico to open stores it would otherwise have been unable to launch, and how Wal-Mart headquarters had stifled an early internal probe.

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The second report focused on how Walmex allegedly paid $52,000 (U.S.) to change a zoning map so it could open a store near the ancient pyramids in Teotihuacan.

The company has maintained its senior executives did not recall mentions of bribery allegations related to the Teotihuacan store.

But in documents released by Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the U.S. House Oversight Committee, and Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, senior lawyers for the company told Mr. Duke about the Teotihuacan allegations in 2005.

One e-mail from Wal-Mart general counsel Thomas Mars in October 2005 provided Mr. Duke with a memo summarizing the allegations with a note saying: "You'll want to read this. I'm available to discuss next steps."

A Wal-Mart spokesman said the company would respond to questions about the matter shortly.

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