Mexico’s chief North American trade negotiator is under investigation for charging the federal government for personal travel to Hong Kong.
According to the newspaper El Universal, the Public Administration Ministry (SFP) is investigating Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Jesús Seade for embezzlement and abuse of office after he allegedly lied in order to obtain funding for his trips to the Asian city.
The purpose of five trips he took to Hong Kong between 2018 and 2020 appears to have been to visit his wife and other family members who live there. But Seade claimed that his travel was work related.
The deputy minister didn’t conduct any government business while in the financial center, El Universal said. For each of his five trips, Seade charged the government for first class flights and travel expenses.
He first traveled to Hong Kong in December 2018 just two weeks after assuming his deputy minister position. To cover his expenses for that trip he received 181,864 pesos (US $8,500 at today’s exchange rate) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
All told, Seade is accused of the improper use of more than 865,000 pesos (US $40,600) in public resources, according to El Universal.
The accusations were made on the SFP’s anti-corruption platform Ciudadanos Alertadores, which citizens can use to report alleged wrongdoings by federal officials. El Universal said that the complaint against Seade is supported by various documents.
The deputy minister has not commented publicly on the allegations against him while President López Obrador said Wednesday that he had no knowledge of an investigation into the trade negotiator.
Seade led Mexico’s negotiating team in the latter stages of discussions with the United States and Canada aimed at reaching a new North American trade pact. The USMCA, as the agreement is known, took effect July 1.
The deputy minister was nominated as a candidate for director-general of the World Trade Organization but was eliminated from the race during a voting round in September.
Source: El Universal (sp)