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Wal-Mart Licenses to Be Examined by Mexico Federal Agency

Mexico’s federal government will investigate how Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB obtained federal permits for any possible “irregular conduct,” the nation’s anti-corruption agency said.

The Public Administration Ministry will examine the permits and approvals Wal-Mart obtained from federal agencies to open and operate its stores in Mexico, it said today on its website. It will also solicit information from the U.S. government, it said.

Wal-Mart de Mexico is facing government scrutiny on both sides of the border after it disclosed it was looking into allegations that it spent more than $24 million to bribe local officials to get stores opened faster. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the payments detailed in an April 21 New York Times story.

The Mexican probe’s focus will be narrow because the federal government doesn’t have authority over most permits Wal-Mart obtained to run its stores, said Arturo Pueblita, a Mexico City lawyer whose clients include international pharmacies and local retailers. Some health and environmental permission may cross into federal jurisdiction, he said.

“The results will be very limited because of their jurisdiction,” said Pueblita, of the law firm Cuevas y Pueblita Abogados in Mexico City. “I don’t think they’ll have any definitive results. I think this is nothing more than a public spectacle.”

If the Public Administration Ministry uncovers evidence that local officials accepted bribes, it will pass the information to authorities with jurisdiction, it said.

Wal-Mart de Mexico gained 3.7 percent to 37.55 pesos at the close in Mexico City, where it is based. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which owns 69 percent of the Mexican unit, fell 0.7 percent to $57.36 in New York.

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