Thursday, May 30, 2024

Probe finds attorney general owns million-dollar properties in US

The ownership of expensive real estate has thrust yet another federal official into the spotlight.

Former public administration minister Irma Sandoval faced accusations of corruption last year after it came to light that she and her husband owned properties worth some 60 million pesos (US $2.9 million). Earlier this month President López Obrador called for the ex-chief of the government’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Santiago Nieto, to be investigated after the newspaper Reforma reported that he had bought or acquired four properties and an Audi car worth a combined 40 million pesos (US $1.9 million).

Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero has an even more valuable real estate portfolio, the news outlet Univision has revealed.

It reported that Gertz, a former lawmaker and federal security minister, owns two expensive properties in the United States. He purchased an apartment in a New York art deco building that overlooks Central Park for US $2.4 million and an apartment in Santa Monica, California, for $1.1 million in 2007.

He bought the New York property just after his three-year term as a federal deputy ended, while he was president of the Mexican Federation of Private Higher Education Institutes when he purchased the Santa Monica apartment.

Gertz told Univision that he has declared the New York property to tax authorities and the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP), the government’s internal corruption watchdog. The California property “is perfectly registered,” he said without specifying if he has declared it to tax authorities and whether it is included in his declaration of assets to the SFP.

The attorney general told Univision that the purchases were made with resources from a long-established family fortune. “I have nothing to hide,” Gertz said.

However, the details of his fortune are a mystery, Univision said, noting that the attorney general has not agreed to the disclosure of his declaration of assets.

He told Univision that he prefers to keep the details under wraps to avoid possible extortion attempts. Asked why other officials allow the publication of their financial situations when they too could be extorted, Gertz responded that it was “possibly because they don’t have a significant fortune.”

Some clues to the attorney general’s wealth are contained in the Paradise Papers – 13.4 million documents obtained by German newspaper Südeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2017. He was identified as the vice president of a personal investment company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, generally considered a tax haven.

However, Gertz has denied any knowledge of the company, whose principal beneficiary was his brother Federico, who died in 2015.

The Univision report comes less than two weeks after the newspaper El Universal reported that the 81-year-old bought 122 cars between 2014 and 2015, including several Mercedes-Benzes and a Rolls Royce. Reports have also said that Gertz owns houses in Paris and Las Lomas, an upscale district of Mexico City.

The attorney general told Univision that the reports are part of a campaign of “media harassment” against him. López Obrador has indicated that he considers Gertz to be an honest man.

Considered an ally of the president, the attorney general was elected to a nine-year term in January 2019.

With reports from Univision

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