How $500,000 check that sat uncashed adds to Mexico scandal

By David Boddiger

Videgaray’s $500,000 check wasn’t cashed for 10 months.


Ricardo Anaya, head of the National Action Party, Mexico’s largest opposition bloc, last week called the investigation clearing Peña Nieto and Videgaray an “offensive joke.” The Democratic Revolution Party said on its website the verdict “lacks credibility.”

“There are a series of unusual actions here,” said Ernesto Villanueva, a transparency and corruption researcher at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “It gives me the feeling that there was an effort by the investigators to exonerate the finance minister.”

A Pew survey conducted April 7-19 shows that 27 percent of respondents approve of Peña Nieto’s handling of corruption, down from 42 percent a year ago.

Comptroller Virgilio Andrade, a Peña Nieto appointee whose job is to oversee and investigate federal officials, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In documents released last week, Andrade’s office said Videgaray wrote the check for 6.6 million pesos, or about $500,000 at the time, to a unit owned by Juan Armando Hinojosa in January 2014. The businessman’s Grupo Higa is a construction conglomerate with 22 federal contracts including a deal to renovate the presidential hangar at the Mexico City airport. Hinojosa’s firm didn’t cash the check until Dec. 5, just days before a Wall Street Journal article

MEXICO CITY — For months, Mexicans have been clamoring for more details about Finance Minister Luis Videgaray’s purchase of a luxury house perched at the edge of a lush golf course a couple of hours outside of Mexico City.

Now, documents have been released suggesting that Videgaray completed his purchase of the vacation home after taking office in an unusual deal with a builder who has ties to the government. Videgaray, a former investment banker, paid for the home with three works of art and a personal check dated Jan. 31, 2014. But the $500,000 check wasn’t cashed until almost a year later — just days before a news report was published questioning the minister’s dealings with the government contractor.

The revelations — included in thousands of documents released last week as part of a federal investigation into home purchases by the finance minister, the president and his wife that cleared them of wrongdoing — add to the political soap opera that has dominated the headlines for months and helped undermine public approval of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

“This doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Arturo Pueblita, a constitutional-law expert at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City. “This is completely irregular … continue reading

Via:: Tico Times