UPDATE 2-Lawmakers suspect money laundering issues at Wal-Mart

Wed Aug 15, 2012 4:11am IST

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* Lawmakers probing allegations of bribery in Wal-Mart's Mexico unit

* Wal-Mart also cooperating with DOJ, SEC on probe

* Lawmakers say internal records may show other compliance problems

* Records may point to money laundering, tax evasion issues

* Lawmakers give Wal-Mart one more chance to turn over documents

By Sarah N. Lynch and Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Two U.S. House Democrats investigating bribery allegations in Wal-Mart's Mexico affiliate said on Tuesday they have obtained new internal records that may point to evidence of tax evasion and money laundering.

Reps. Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman, who are the ranking members, respectively, of the House Oversight and House Energy committees, disclosed the latest details of their probe in an Aug. 14 letter to the company.

"We have obtained internal company documents, including internal audit reports, from other sources suggesting that Wal-Mart may have had compliance issues relating not only to bribery, but also to 'questionable financial behavior' including tax evasion and money laundering in Mexico," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Wal-Mart Chief Executive Michael Duke.

Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the company is still conducting a "thorough and independent investigation into allegations relating to corporate conduct."

"We are committed to having a strong and effective global compliance program, which includes anti-corruption, in every country in which we operate," Buchanan said.

Cummings and Waxman launched their own review of Wal-Mart earlier this year after The New York Times reported that the world's largest retailer had intentionally stifled an internal probe into bribery in its Mexican affiliate, Wal-Mart de Mexico .

The company has said it is cooperating with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission as it conducts its own review.

The two Democrats complained on Tuesday that Wal-Mart has been uncooperative with the congressional probe.

They gave the company one last chance to turn over documents and give them access to witnesses before they release an investigative report.

Wal-Mart has provided them with several briefings on its anti-corruption compliance program, but has declined to provide certain details of investigation because it is still ongoing.

Buchanan said on Tuesday the company wants to provide lawmakers with "whatever appropriate information" it can.

"We have already provided committee staff with two briefings, and we are exploring ways to make additional information available," Buchanan said. "We are committed to doing whatever we can to appropriately address their requests, consistent with the ongoing federal investigation."

It is unclear how many details the lawmakers' investigative report may contain.

"Although you have stated on multiple occasions that you intend to cooperate with our investigation, you have failed to provide the documents we requested, and you continue to deny us access to key witnesses," Cummings and Waxman wrote.

"Your actions are preventing us from assessing the thoroughness of your internal investigation and from identifying potential remedial actions."

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