AMSTERDAM -- Dutch government financial regulators are investigating allegations in an anonymous letter that said the scandal at grocery conglomerate Royal Ahold NV includes bribes in Argentina, "secret bonuses" for U.S. executives and a coverup by the ousted chief financial officer.
The document, signed "A very concerned person involved," suggests the wrongdoing at Ahold may be more far-reaching than the inflated profit and other accounting irregularities disclosed Monday.
Ahold is the parent of Giant Food Inc. of Landover, the Washington area's largest supermarket chain, and of U.S. Foodservice Inc. of Columbia. Royal Ahold said last week that U.S. Foodservice had overstated profit by at least $500 million.
The nine-point letter was sent originally to a Dutch shareholders group and to the Dutch press, which forwarded it to the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets. The authority, an official agency linked to the Finance Ministry, issued a statement Friday saying it was studying the document as part of its inquiry into possible insider trading in Ahold stock.
Ahold spokeswoman Annemiek Louwers said the company was aware of the existence of the letter but had no comment.
The letter provides no evidence to back up its claims. Its allegations include:
* At one of Ahold's Argentine subsidiaries, "bribes appear to have been paid and are still being paid," and private homes were financed with Ahold money. Ahold said Monday that it was investigating possible illegality in its Disco supermarket chain in Argentina.
* Executives at U.S. Foodservice "appear to have contractually secret bonuses."
* Chief financial officer Michiel Meurs was "responsible for these affairs," and "tried afterwards to cover up these scandals by writing antedated letters." Meurs's resignation was announced Feb. 24, along with that of the company's president and chief executive, Cees van der Hoeven.
* For years, Ahold has been booking 100 percent of sales and profit of a Scandinavian unit, despite owning only half the shares.
The letter alleged that Ahold has been having "large disputes" for months with its outside auditor, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. The auditor has said it told Ahold of the irregularities at U.S. Foodservice. Its audit of the 2002 results has been suspended.