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Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City Mayor, Says Officials Will Probe Walmart 'Store By Store'

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MARCELO EBRARD WALMART
AP


MEXICO CITY, April 26 (Reuters) - Mexico City's mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, said on Thursday authorities in the capital would investigate allegations "store by store" that the Mexican unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc bribed officials to expand its business in the country.

Ebrard was speaking a day after the federal comptroller's office said it had launched a probe following a New York Times report that alleged the company made suspect payments worth $24 million to expand rapidly in Mexico.

"We'll see what this investigation brings, what other information we can get - and if we establish any irregularity, we'll have to act," Ebrard said in Mexico City.

"We're checking store by store, everything. There are all kinds of different permits, land use, construction authorization, there are licenses," he added.

The comptroller's office said it had begun checking federal paperwork and permits that Wal-Mart de Mexico, known as Walmex , obtained to open and operate stores in Mexico.

Walmex's operations in the city proper include 23 Wal-Mart brand superstores, according to Walmex's website. It also owns dozens of other businesses in Mexico City including smaller supermarkets.

Separately, the Mexican environment ministry said it was asking the comptroller's office to investigate seven cases where Wal-Mart needed environmental clearance to build new stores to ensure there were no irregularities.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on Wednesday the scandal had made him "very indignant."

Around half of Mexico's 32 regional governments, which include the capital, told Reuters earlier this week they had no immediate plans to begin looking into the reports.

Walmex shares were down 0.4 percent at 37.42 pesos and Wal-Mart shares were up 2.5 percent at $58.79 on Thursday afternoon.

(Reporting by Miguel Gutierrez and Mica Rosenberg; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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