The net that took in former cabinet secretary Rosario Robles could well widen and catch her successor at the Secretariat of Social Development (Sedesol).
The judge who remanded Robles in preventative custody yesterday to await trial on corruption charges ruled that her legal team must submit to authorities by Friday a certified copy of the document their client prepared for her successor, José Antonio Meade.
The document in question shows that Robles alerted Meade about financial irregularities detected at Sedesol by the Federal Auditor’s Office in relation to the so-called “Master Fraud” embezzlement scheme. It was presented to the court yesterday by defense attorney Óscar Ramírez.
Judge Felipe de Jesús Delgadillo Padierna described the evidence as “a jewel” but stressed that it will be up to the Attorney General’s Office to determine whether an investigation is launched against Meade in relation to the same accusations faced by Robles – improper exercise of public service through omission.
“If the secretary [Meade] was informed and he could have avoided the [financial] damage but didn’t, he can be [legally] accused for that omission,” Delgadillo said.
Meade, who also served as secretary of both finance and foreign affairs in the previous government, has not spoken publicly about the accusations he could face. He met current Finance Secretary Arturo Herrera at the National Palace yesterday but the topic of their discussions has not been disclosed.
The judge said that clarification is also needed as to whether former president Peña Nieto had knowledge of the irregularities detected at Sedesol and the Secretariat of Agrarian Development and Urban Planning (Sedatu) when they were headed by Robles.
Both secretariats and several other federal departments are implicated in the “Master Fraud” scheme in which billions of pesos in public funds were misappropriated through allegedly phony contracts with universities and shell companies.
“In this hearing, he [Peña Nieto] has been tacitly implicated,” Delgadillo said.
In fact, Óscar Ramírez, the defense lawyer, said that Robles reported the irregularities to the ex-president on several occasions – at cabinet meetings, during working trips and via a direct telephone line.
The judge countered that she should have informed Peña Nieto in writing.
If such a document exists but is not presented to the court, Robles is effectively “covering up” for the former president, Delgadillo said.
The former secretary, who the Attorney General’s Office alleges allowed over 5 billion pesos (US $258 million) to be misappropriated, faces up to 23 years in jail if convicted. She is currently being held at the Santa Martha Acatitla prison in Mexico City.
President López Obrador said today that no crimes or guilty parties will be “fabricated” in Robles’ case.
“. . . I’m not going to give any order to damage anyone,” the president said before adding that he wouldn’t provide cover for anyone either.
“. . . I’m not going to ask for crimes to be fabricated or for anyone to be pursued, nor am I going to intervene so that impunity prevails . . .”
Source: Milenio (sp)