Friday, June 14, 2024

17-billion-peso diversion investigated at cancelled airport project

Federal authorities are investigating the suspected diversion of 17.7 billion pesos (US $914 million) in funding allocated for construction of the cancelled Mexico City airport project.

Documents seen by the newspaper El Universal allege that the project’s former infrastructure director, Raúl González Apaolaza, and Carlos Noriega, the former chief of the Mexico City Airport Group (GACM) – the state-owned firm responsible for the project – were involved in the diversion of funds.

The conclusions of an investigation conducted late last year by the Federal Police have been submitted to the Internal Control Organ (OIC) of the GACM, the Secretariat of Public Administration (SFP) and the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) for review and further investigation.

A Federal Police report says that materials including tezontle and basalt, two volcanic rocks widely used in construction in Mexico, were bought from companies and trade unions allegedly controlled by González although they didn’t have formal contracts with the GACM.

In total, the companies and trade unions received an estimated 17.7 billion pesos for supplying and transporting the materials to the airport site in Texcoco, México state.

However, the transportation costs paid were excessive, the investigation found, and trains, which could have delivered the construction materials for less and more quickly, were “deliberately not contracted.”

The report said there was “a concerted action between officials and trade unions that could be classified as organized crime which had the aim of creating a transportation monopoly of the materials at prices that they established and only through the use of their trucks.”

It also said that González had failed to disclose a conflict of interest by not declaring that he was a member of the Transport Workers Union and the SITRAM construction workers union, which controlled the sales and transport of construction materials for the US $13-billion airport.

The former infrastructure chief denies any wrongdoing and said that he has never been a member of the latter union.

The Federal Police said that the personal finances of González and Noriega must be subjected to audit, questioning the latter’s purchase of a property worth almost 5 million pesos (US $260,000) and the rental of two Mexico City offices for 500,000 pesos a month.

President López Obrador cancelled the airport project after a four-day public consultation in October. He has long said that the project is corrupt, too expensive, not needed and being built on land that was sinking.

Federal Communications and Transportation Secretary Javier Jiménez Espriú announced last week that construction work had officially concluded on the airport although GACM chief Gerardo Ferrando conceded that some minor work had not yet stopped.

Source: El Universal (sp), E-Consulta (sp) 

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