The Prosecutor’s Office announces three investigations against Enrique Peña Nieto for money laundering and illicit enrichment

Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a file photo.
Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a file photo.Leonardo Munoz (EFE)

The Attorney General’s Office (FGR) announced this Tuesday that it “keeps” three investigations open against former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). “The first case includes various complaints in which the OHL company is involved,” the agency detailed in a statement. The second part of a complaint from the “finance authorities” for alleged crimes of “money laundering and illegal international transfers.” The third is for a possible “illicit enrichment” issue.

Without giving more details, the Prosecutor’s Office has added that “as procedural results are obtained, in which the public versions authorized by law can be given, this will be done immediately.” The investigating agency has clarified that it has not yet presented any of the three cases before the judge. Nor has he reported the time it could take to do so. Once it happens, and if requested by the Prosecutor’s Office itself, the judge could order the arrest of Peña Nieto and even his entry into prison. Mexican law provides that one of the precautionary measures for those accused of committing crimes of illicit enrichment is preventive detention.

This increases the pressure on Peña Nieto, who has been living in Spain for at least a couple of years, thanks to the granting of a golden visa aimed at investors, according to EL PAÍS. Forgotten during the first years of the current six-year term, the Government and the FGR are now closing the clamp on the former president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Until a few months ago, few in the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador pointed to the last PRI government, much less Peña Nieto. Neither does the FGR, focused on the director of Pemex during most of his term, Emilio Lozoya, the centerpiece of the bribery scandal linked to the construction company Odebrecht.

But in the last few months something has changed. The government’s relationship with the PRI has become tense, a situation that coincides with the discussion of the Electricity Industry Law (LIE), a commitment by López Obrador. Designed to limit the participation of private initiative in the energy sector, the PRI bench in Congress was against it, provoking the wrath of López Obrador. The president of the PRI, Alejandro Moreno, involved in several scandals for the anonymous disclosure of telephone calls, has accused threats for opposing López Obrador’s reform.

The change in the government’s attitude towards the PRI began with Moreno but has intensified with Peña Nieto. Three weeks ago, the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Finance (UIF) reported the complaint it had filed against the former president for obtaining more than 26 million pesos, a little more than a million dollars, from an irregular transfer scheme. from abroad.

Invited in July to the press conference of President López Obrador, the head of the FIU, Pablo Gómez, explained that they had detected “a scheme where a former president of the Republic obtained economic benefits.” The money entered an account of a relative of Peña Nieto and was later deposited in another account in the name of the former president. “Said relative applied these operations with a brother of the former president by sending him checks for the approximate amount of 29 million pesos,” Gómez said then. It seems clear that at least one of the three complaints has to do with this matter.

Another points to the scandal of the Spanish construction company OHL and its subsidiary in Mexico. In 2015, anonymous sources posted on the Internet several calls between employees of the firm, in which they spoke of an alleged rigging to increase tolls on the Bicentennial Viaduct, one of the great works of the State of Mexico in the last quarter of a century. Peña Nieto governed the region between 2006 and 2011. During his term, the scandal affected his communications secretary, Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, now deceased.

Over the years, different actors, including politicians and lawyers, have pointed out corruption that points to the relationship between OHL and the State of Mexico. In 2017, the lawyer Paulo Díez Gargari, scourge of OHL, presented, for example, four complaints for alleged acts of corruption against workers of the firm and former leaders of the PRI in the State of Mexico. Among the accused politicians were Peña Nieto, Foreign Minister and former Secretary of the Treasury, Luis Videgaray, and Ruiz Esparza himself.

Peña Nieto’s name has also appeared in the framework of the investigations into the Odebrecht case. Armed with the statements of Emilio Lozoya and other witnesses, the FGR thinks that Peña Nieto would have participated in a network of distribution of bribes to different politicians, from the PRI and the conservative National Action, for the approval of his own energy reform, designed to privilege Foreign investment. The current government defends that the true objectives of that reform “were dispossession, the disappearance of state energy companies and the granting of unlimited benefits to the private sector.”

The announcement of this Tuesday by the FGR occurs less than a year before the elections in the State of Mexico, the last bastion of the PRI in the center of the country, after the loss of Hidalgo this year. The most populated region and with the largest budget in the entire country, the State of Mexico appears on the horizon as the last and most coveted electoral objective of Morena, López Obrador’s party, which almost won in 2017, with Delfina Gómez as candidate, current Secretary of Federal Education. Alfredo Del Mazo, cousin of Peña Nieto, prevailed then by a small margin.

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