Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Probe begins into 17 cases of embezzlement involving 3 billion pesos

The federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) is initiating investigations into 17 cases of alleged embezzlement involving more than 3 billion pesos in stolen funds after receiving criminal complaints from the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF).

The ASF filed the complaints after detecting an illicit government contracting scheme that siphoned public money to shell and illegal companies through public universities.

The scheme known as la estafa maestra (the master fraud) first came to public attention last September when a joint investigation by digital newspaper Animal Político and the organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) was published.

The investigation revealed details of the scheme’s modus operandi, named 11 federal agencies that allegedly participated in the swindle and charged that the Secretariat of Social Development (Sedesol), the development bank Banobras and state oil company Pemex were the worst offenders.

Presenting the first installment of the ASF 2017 public accounts report to the lower house of Congress yesterday, chief auditor David Colmenares revealed that 17 complaints had been filed and said that he was committed to ensuring that the PGR follows through with its investigations.

They are currently in the integration stage, which means that the PGR is directing the activities of investigative police and experts in order to conduct a preliminary investigation.

In total, the ASF detected the diversion of 3.037 billion pesos (US $152 million at today’s exchange rate), while the Animal Político / MCCI investigation said the final destination of over 3.4 billion pesos was unknown.

Colmenares told Congress members that the ASF will file more corruption-related criminal complaints “in the future” in order to ensure that “those who committed irregularities are held accountable.”

He also said that as a result of public accounts audits between 2013 and 2016, irregularities totaling 1.088 billion pesos (US $54.6 million at today’s exchange rate) had been detected and that that 72 people were allegedly responsible.

Of that number, 63 are either current of former Sedesol officials or worked at the Autonomous University of México state or the Autonomous University of the state of Morelos, Colmenares said.

The chief auditor also told Congress that the ASF will review the use of more than 14 billion pesos (US $702 million) that were allocated to nine states for reconstruction after last September’s earthquakes as well as a further 6.9 billion pesos (US $346 million) that were allotted for repair and recovery efforts following other natural disasters.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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