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299 public servants under investigation

Employees at Pemex, IMSS top the list of corruption suspects

Almost 300 public servants from at least 41 government agencies are currently under investigation for corruption, according to federal authorities.

Officials from two organizations — state oil company Pemex and the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) — together account for nearly one-third of the 299 illicit enrichment cases being examined. Most of the investigations relate to acts of corruption committed in 2017.

In response to a freedom of information request, the Secretariat of Public Administration (SFP) told the newspaper Milenio that 65 Pemex employees are subject to its ongoing investigations, including 23 with alleged links to the Brazilian firm Odebrecht.

Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya has been accused of receiving US $10 million in bribes in exchange for awarding contracts to the construction company, which has been at the center of corruption scandals in several Latin American countries. Lozoya denies the allegations.

The SFP also told Milenio that the actions of 28 IMSS employees are under the microscope.

The agencies with the next highest number of employees under investigation are state-owned dairy company Liconsa, the Institute for the National Fund for Employee Consumption (Fonacot) and the State Workers’ Social Security Institute (ISSSTE), with 12 cases each.

The office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman (Prodecon) follows with 10.

Nine employees from the Federal Tax Administration (SAT) are also being scrutinized as are eight officials from both the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE).

If convicted, public servants face punishments that vary depending on the size of the embezzlement or bribes received.

The crime of illicit enrichment not exceeding 403,000 pesos (US $22,100) warrants a prison term of between three months and two years along with a fine of up to 8,000 pesos (US $438).

If the enrichment exceeds 403,000 pesos, imprisonment of two to 14 years can be imposed and the maximum fine increases to 12,000 pesos (US $658).

However, because the sanctions were established as part of the National Anti-Corruption System, they do not enter into force until an anti-corruption prosecutor is named.

The failure to appoint an official to head up the system has attracted widespread criticism.

In addition to alleged illicit enrichment by individuals, the current federal administration has been implicated in several larger corruption scandals at an institutional level.

They include the so-called Master Fraud in which 11 federal agencies diverted over 3.4 billion pesos (US $186.5 million at today’s exchange rate) of government funds, the PGR allegedly purchasing spyware to monitor government critics from a front company and, last month, the diversion of more than 1.3 billions pesos from two federal secretariats.

A report in The New York Times in December asserted that the Mexican government is refusing to cooperate with attempts to look into some of the biggest corruption scandals it has faced.

Corruption and strategies to combat it will be central to the political debate during the campaign period for the July 1 presidential election. All three major party candidates have pledged, if elected, to tackle the problem head-on.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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