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Walmart Bribery Case Likely Won't Be Investigated By Authorities In Most Mexican States

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MEXICO CITY, April 24 (Reuters) - Nearly half of Mexico's state prosecuting authorities said on Tuesday they had no immediate plans to investigate allegations of corruption by the Mexican arm of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Wal-Mart had silenced an internal investigation into hundreds of suspect payments worth more than $24 million made to expand its business in Mexico, where it is the biggest retailer.

The Mexican economy ministry said on Monday the Wal-Mart allegations were a matter for local or state governments, not federal authorities, while adding that the government would cooperate with any U.S. investigation.

Reuters spoke to officials from prosecuting authorities in nearly all of Mexico's 31 states on Tuesday, and none knew of any concrete plans to launch a probe into the Wal-Mart case.

Fourteen of the regional prosecuting authorities, including those in the capital, explicitly said no investigations were underway because no complaints had been filed against Wal-Mart.

"I don't think any investigation will open here (in Mexico City) because this case comes from the United States, so if there is any intervention by the Mexican government it would be via international agreements," said a spokesman for state prosecutors in the capital.

The bribery scandal has knocked more than $10 billion from Wal-Mart's market value, and the company said on Tuesday it appointed a global officer to oversee compliance with a U.S. law that forbids bribes to foreign officials.

Wal-Mart said on Saturday it had begun an investigation last fall into its compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It said it had disclosed the probe to the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Leading Mexican politicians, including presidential front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto, have called for the allegations to be investigated in Mexico, a country where paying bribes is often taken for granted by many small businesses.

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