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Mexican governor sues Wal-Mart whistleblower over bribery claims

(Reuters) - A Mexican state governor implicated in a bribery scandal involving Wal-Mart Stores Inc sued a former lawyer-turned-whistleblower for the company and sought an apology for naming him in connection with the scandal.

The lawsuit adds another layer of intrigue around a scandal that has dogged the company and its Mexican affiliate, Walmex .

On Wednesday, Walmex released a statement saying it had made no allegations involving illicit acts by public officials in Mexico.

Reports in The New York Times last year detailed how the company allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to open stores in Mexico and obtain what laws had otherwise prohibited in the mid-2000s. It also reported that the company stifled an early internal inquiry into the matter.

Wal-Mart and U.S. authorities are investigating the allegations separately.

Graco Ramirez, the governor of Morelos, was identified in emails released by U.S. lawmakers earlier this month as negotiating a bribe worth 2 million pesos on behalf of Walmex. At the time he was a deputy with the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution.

The email detailed allegations provided by Sergio Cicero, a former lawyer for the company, who also provided information to the Times.

Ramirez filed a lawsuit against Cicero claiming that email, sent in 2005, hurt his reputation. He asked Cicero to publicly say that what he alleged was not true.

"I have never had any contact with Mr. Sergio Cicero Zapata," Ramirez said in a statement describing the lawsuit.

He also said he did not know any officials from Wal-Mart.

In its statement, Walmex said the allegations from the email are part of its bribery investigation.

"We regret the effect that the actions by third parties may have had on persons and on institutions for which the Company has deep respect," it said.

Cicero could not be immediately located for comment.

(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha, additional reporting by Alexandra Alper in Mexico, editing by G Crosse)

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