On Tuesday, February 3, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered an investigation connected to corruption allegations involving the president himself, his wife, and Mexico’s finance minister.
However, Peña Nieto fell short of creating a fully independent body, instead appointing former economy official Virgilio Andrade to a vacant position as head of the Public Administration Ministry (SFP), which is to lead the probe.
During Andrade’s swearing in, the Mexican premier also launched eight new presidential decrees as part of a broader move to eliminate corruption among federal public officials.
“Reaffirming my absolute commitment to transparency and accountability, I have requested the Public Administration Ministry to determine whether there was a conflict of interest in public contracts awarded by federal departments to companies involved in home purchases by my wife, the finance minister, and myself,” Peña Nieto told press.
In recent months, Peña Nieto, his wife Angélica Rivera, and Finance Minister Luis Videgaray have faced a series of allegations that building companies sold luxury homes at knock-off prices to the trio in return for million-dollar government contracts.
Both Rivera and Videgaray bought in 2012 homes from companies owned by Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, owner of the powerful Higa Group, which maintains close relations with the president and his entourage.
The first lady has previously stated that she bought the house with savings and a retirement payoff accrued through her 25-year career with Mexican network Televisa.
In his speech on Tuesday, Peña Nieto said that “the president does not award contracts, public works, or licenses, nor does he participate in the committees in charge of doing so.”
“I am conscious that these accusations have created the appearance of something improper, something that didn’t really take place,” the president added.
However, the SFP under Andrade’s stewardship is not to review the purchase of the houses in question, instead only reviewing general procedures for federal contracts to private companies.