Mexico accuses ex-president of illegal millions of dollars

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s anti-money laundering agency said Thursday it has accused ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto of handling millions of dollars in potentially illicit funds, perhaps a signal from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that he is delivering on his promise takes prosecuting corruption seriously.

It is the first formal legal indictment against Peña Nieto, despite a cloud of corruption allegations during his 2012-2018 tenure. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made fighting corruption the main focus of his presidency, but has yet to crack down on any of his predecessors.

The criminal complaint filed against Peña Nieto by the government’s Financial Intelligence Unit does not mean that prosecutors have yet decided to file formal charges. But unit head Pablo Gomez said federal prosecutors received and are investigating the complaint alleging use of illegal funds.

Gomez said Thursday that two companies owned by Peña Nieto’s family received about $500 million in government contracts during his tenure. He didn’t name the companies, but said they were some sort of distribution company and the former president was a shareholder.

Gomez also said Peña Nieto received cash transfers from a relative who appeared to be connected to the two companies after leaving office, totaling about $1.3 million. Gomez said Peña Nieto’s accounts and those of the companies have not been suspended.

Peña Nieto moved to Spain after leaving office and has remained silent on a number of allegations.

The former head of Mexico’s state oil company under Peña Nieto, Emilio Lozoya, has claimed Peña Nieto and his right-hand man, then-Finance Minister Luis Videgaray, ordered him to bribe lawmakers, including five senators, to support controversial energy and others Structural reforms in 2013 and 2014.

Videgaray has denied the allegations. Neither man will be charged in this case.

The failure to bring down top figures from previous governments embarrassed López Obrador, as did Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero’s failure to build a strong legal case based on Lozoya’s allegations.

The easy-going approach towards Peña Nieto has fueled speculation that López Obrador struck some sort of gentleman’s agreement with the ex-president in 2018. In exchange for the quick recognition of López Obrador’s presidential victory and the granting of unusual powers during the transition period, Peña Nieto reportedly received a promise of impunity.

López Obrador simply said that “revenge is not my forte” and that Mexico should look to the future, not the past.

But last year, López Obrador sponsored a national referendum by Mexican voters on whether to prosecute former leaders accused of misconduct. It fell short of the 40 percent turnout needed to make it mandatory, and critics pointed out that the government didn’t need the public’s blessing to prosecute anyone who committed crimes. Mexico accuses ex-president of illegal millions of dollars

Dustin Huang

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