French retailing giant Carrefour confirmed in a statement yesterday that eight managers in its northern China stores are being held by police and a Shenzhen employee has been punished in a kickback probe, and vowed to root out such practices.
"So far, the company has discovered evidence of a number of managers and employees violating laws and company rules," said the Chinese-language statement e-mailed to the Shenzhen Daily yesterday.
An employee with the Meilin Carrefour store in Shenzhen had been punished in the probe, the statement said. The company declined to say how much kickbacks the employee had requested.
The retailing giant also said it had set up a hotline (021-56354911) to allow suppliers to report any Carrefour managers or staff requesting kickbacks, and said it was cooperating with police in a deepening probe of the alleged bribes.
The statement did not include further comment, citing the investigation.
Seven of the eight detained managers ran fresh food sections in Beijing stores and demanded kickbacks from suppliers, earlier media reports had said. The eighth was responsible for purchasing fresh meat.
Altogether, 22 people including the eight managers and 12 suppliers were caught in the probe launched in July and have been handed over to police, the reports said.
The Carrefour statement did not mention detentions other than the eight managers.
It added that it would strengthen efforts against corruption in its operations and raise the "professional level" of its staff.
Carrefour's China spokesman Chen Bo said the company was cooperating with police in an investigation. He declined to comment further.
In a statement in Paris last week, Carrefour said the management of Carrefour China had discovered the existence of practices breaking Chinese laws and company rules.
It added Carrefour worked closely with the authorities to shed light on the investigation which involves certain employees suspected of corruption. It added only a few shop staff were involved.
Carrefour, Europe's largest retailer, operates 100 superstores in 37 Chinese cities and is adding 20-25 stores each year. In 2005, it set up four regional headquarters in China to manage its businesses in the country.
Carrefour's China sales surged 53 percent last year to 24.8 billion yuan (US$3.3 billion), outpacing 30 percent growth at Wal-Mart Stores and a 14 percent rise for China's overall retail market.
(Shenzhen Daily September 4, 2007)