Monday, June 24, 2024

Peña Nieto cabinet minister banned from holding public office for 10 years

The federal government has banned former cabinet minister Luis Videgaray from holding public office for 10 years for failing to disclose all his assets when he was a member of the 2012–2018 administration led by ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto.

The Ministry of Public Administration (SFP) announced Tuesday that it had applied the maximum possible punishment against the former finance and foreign affairs minister for making incorrect asset declarations during three consecutive years between 2015 and 2017.

Videgaray, a highly influential member of the Peña Nieto government who also faces allegations of corruption, rejected the SFP’s finding and said he would challenge its decision “without litigating the matter in the media or on social networks.”

In a statement posted to Twitter, the former minister, now working as an academic in the United States, said the SFP considers him “administratively responsible” for omitting details about bank accounts in his 2015–2017 assets declarations.

“The ‘bank accounts’ to which the SFP refers are in fact credit cards, which didn’t have a debit balance at the reporting date for each declaration,” Videgaray said.

He added that he did in fact mention them, writing that the cards were not included in the liabilities section of his declarations because there was no debt on them but were included in the “observations and clarifications” section.

“The declarations are correct, and there was no intention to hide information about assets from the SFP,” Videgaray wrote.

“Finally, it’s important to highlight that in the letter through which I was notified of the resolution, the SFP itself expressly acknowledges that I didn’t obtain any benefit or profit derived from the supposed lack of veracity in the declarations,” he said.

“… It’s the duty of all Mexicans to support the fight against corruption led by President López Obrador. In my case, I will do it contesting the resolution institutionally, with full respect to the Ministry of Public Administration.”

The SFP countered Videgaray’s statement, asserting that the former minister had indeed failed to report bank accounts, in which it said there was money that the minister had an obligation to declare.

“The failure to report balances in accounts constitutes a serious administrative offense,” the government’s internal corruption watchdog said, adding that the decision to ban the former official from holding office had gone through an administrative process and didn’t amount to a “mere accusation.”

“We welcome the [legal] challenge announced, where we’ll defend the legality … of our penalty,” it said.

The SFP notified Videgaray of his sanction on May 11, but the decision was not made public at the time because Mexico was in the official campaign period leading up to Sunday’s elections, during which the government is obliged by electoral rules to refrain from acts that might be viewed as propaganda that favors the ruling party.

Videgaray is also under investigation for his possible involvement in a case in which the state oil company Pemex bought a fertilizer plant at an allegedly vastly inflated price during Peña Nieto’s government. He is also linked to a bribery case involving Pemex and Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht.

Videgaray last August rejected accusations made against him by former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya, who is awaiting trial on corruption charges.

The accusations are “false, absurd, inconsistent and reckless,” he said. “Lozoya’s accusations are invented lies to try to get out of the consequences of his own actions.”

With reports from Reuters (en) and Milenio (sp) 

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