Wal-Mart bribery probe finds few major offenses in Mexico: WSJ

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A federal probe into allegations of corruption at Wal-Mart Stores Inc's (WMT.N) Mexicooperations has found few major offenses, and is likely to result in a much smaller case than investigators expected, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

The three-year investigation is mostly complete and the case could be resolved with a fine and without any criminal charges, the newspaper said.

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As part of the same probe, investigators found evidence of bribery in India, centering on widespread but relatively small payments made to local officials, the Journal said. Wal-Mart is likely to face U.S. foreign-bribery charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act over those payments, the newspaper said.

Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Hitt said the company was cooperating with the government on the matter. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

U.S. lawmakers launched an investigation after the New York Times reported in 2012 that Wal-Mart de Mexico (Walmex) had engaged in a multi-year campaign of bribery to build its business.

See photos of Wal-Mart stores in Mexico:

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Wal-Mart bribery probe finds few major offenses in Mexico: WSJ
A woman looks at a pair of shoes at a Wal-Mart de Mexico Suburbia department store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, Oct.17, 2014. Wal-Mart de Mexico third-quarter sales increased 4.2 percent, the company said in an earnings conference call on Oct. 20. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MEXICO - DECEMBER 02: Demonstrators shout slogans and hand out informational pamphlets against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. outside a retail store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007. About a hundred protesters picketed the Wal-Mart location in Mexico City to demand better treatment for local workers, leveraging off the labor problems that plague the retailer in the U.S. to support employees south of the border who want to form a union. (Photo by Gustavo Graf/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Two women shop at a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Walmex is facing positive market reaction after reporting solid fourth-quarter results and higher-than-expected dividend payment proposal for this year, according to Banco Santander analysts. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Shoppers stand in line to pay for their merchandise inside a Sam's Club store in Mexico City, Mexico on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. El Buen Fin, Mexico's equivalent of Black Friday, when the year's biggest discounts are offered by participating stores, is held on the third weekend of November and will run through Nov. 19. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MEXICO - FEBRUARY 09: A customer loads his SUV with purchases outside of a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, February 9, 2007. Wal-Mart de Mexico SA, Latin America's biggest retailer, posted its smallest profit increase in a year by cutting prices to take market share from competitors. (Photo by Jaime Puebla/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
A worker uses a price machine to change at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, June 20, 2013. Mexican retail sales rose 2.5 percent in April from the same month last year, the country's statistics agency, known as Inegi, reported on its website. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A woman selects a piece of fish while shopping at the seafood counter of a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Walmex is facing positive market reaction after reporting solid fourth-quarter results and higher-than-expected dividend payment proposal for this year, according to Banco Santander analysts. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A cashier scans items for their prices at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, June 20, 2013. Mexican retail sales rose 2.5 percent in April from the same month last year, the country's statistics agency, known as Inegi, reported on its website. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A woman shops for baby clothes at a Wal-Mart de Mexico Suburbia department store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, Oct.17, 2014. Wal-Mart de Mexico third-quarter sales increased 4.2 percent, the company said in an earnings conference call on Oct. 20. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Customers shop for groceries at a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Walmex is facing positive market reaction after reporting solid fourth-quarter results and higher-than-expected dividend payment proposal for this year, according to Banco Santander analysts. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Soldiers drive past a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB de CV store in Mexico City, Mexico on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. El Buen Fin, Mexico's equivalent of Black Friday, when the year's biggest discounts are offered by participating stores, is held on the third weekend of November and will run through Nov. 19. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Employees package sopes and tortillas at a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Walmex is facing positive market reaction after reporting solid fourth-quarter results and higher-than-expected dividend payment proposal for this year, according to Banco Santander analysts. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A man pushes a shopping cart past Koninklijke Philips NV and LG Eelctronics Inc. televisions that are reserved for the 'El Buen Fin' weekend at a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB Sam's Club store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. El Buen Fin, Mexico's equivalent of Black Friday, when the year's biggest discounts are offered by participating stores, is held during the third weekend of November. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bananas are displayed for sale at a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Walmex is facing positive market reaction after reporting solid fourth-quarter results and higher-than-expected dividend payment proposal for this year, according to Banco Santander analysts. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Cars drive past a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Walmex is facing positive market reaction after reporting solid fourth-quarter results and higher-than-expected dividend payment proposal for this year, according to Banco Santander analysts. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Customers shop in the grocery section of a Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Walmex is facing positive market reaction after reporting solid fourth-quarter results and higher-than-expected dividend payment proposal for this year, according to Banco Santander analysts. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Customers wait in line to pay for purchases at a Wal-Mart de Mexico Suburbia department store in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, Oct.17, 2014. Wal-Mart de Mexico third-quarter sales increased 4.2 percent, the company said in an earnings conference call on Oct. 20. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
In this Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 photo, a family leaves a local Walmart in Mexico City. Looking around a Mexico dotted by Starbucks, Wal-Marts and Krispy Kreme outlets, it's hard to remember the country before the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has dramatically expanded consumer choice and trade since it took effect 20 years ago.(AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
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The NYT report said a senior Wal-Mart lawyer had received an email from a former Walmex executive in September 2005 describing how Wal-Mart de Mexico had paid bribes to obtain permits to build stores across the country.



But the company's top executives shut down the probe and did not notify U.S. or Mexican law enforcement officials until after the newspaper informed Wal-Mart that it was looking into the issue.

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After the NYT report in April 2012, Wal-Mart had lost $10 billion of its market value on concerns that the bribery investigation in Mexico could be very costly and hinder its plans to grow.

In November 2012, Indian authorities were investigating claims that Wal-Mart violated foreign exchange rules when it invested $100 million in its Indian joint venture. Wal-Mart's Indian joint venture suspended its chief financial officer and other employees as part of its investigations.

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