Shell companies with links to drug traffickers were used to syphon millions of pesos from federal programs during the government of former president Enrique Peña Nieto, according to a report by the newspaper Reforma.
The Software Industry Development Program (Prosoft), established during the 2000-2006 presidency of Vicente Fox, was one of those targeted by the illicit scheme.
A network of illegal companies in Nuevo León received 152.8 million pesos (US $6.9 million at today’s exchange rate) from the government via the program, Reforma said.
The illegal companies were created out of thin air, the newspaper said, adding that people who lived in poor neighborhoods in and around Monterrey were listed as directors or shareholders without their knowledge.
Some of the shell companies vanished after they received government funding. Others still appear on suspicious company lists prepared by the federal tax agency SAT.
Prosoft distributed 3.3 billion pesos (US $149.2 million) to companies and individuals during Peña Nieto’s 2012-2018 term, meaning that there was plenty of scope for corrupt activity.
It is unclear how much of that amount went to fake companies but in Nuevo León, where just under 338 million pesos was distributed, almost half of the funds distributed by Prosoft went to such firms.
Reforma and Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), an independent anti-graft group, revealed in an article published Tuesday that SAT has launched a money laundering and tax fraud probe into a network of at least 45 shell companies that operated in the northern state.
The network of companies was used by leaders of the Zetas drug cartel, the Peña Nieto administration and several state governments, Reforma and MCCI said. Some of those companies illegally siphoned Prosoft funds.
The United States Department of Treasury also detected that companies within the illicit network were involved in suspicious operations.
The Peña Nieto government, which was plagued by corruption scandals, allegedly made extensive use of shell companies to divert public money.
Eleven federal agencies allegedly diverted billions of pesos through shell companies between 2013 and 2014. Former cabinet minister Rosario Robles was arrested in connection with the so-called “Master Fraud,” which syphoned money via contracts with public universities. She remains in prison awaiting trial.
The Ministry of Defense during the Peña Nieto government allegedly paid almost 2 billion pesos to 45 shell companies to which it awarded supply contracts related to construction work at the cancelled Mexico City airport project.
Chief Auditor David Colmenares said earlier this year that there were was a question mark over the use of 50.94 billion pesos (US $2.2 billion) during 2018, the final year of the previous government’s six-year term.
Source: Reforma (sp)