Saturday, December 2, 2023

University probed after $156-million transfer from foreign bank accounts

The Autonomous University of Hidalgo (UAEH) is under investigation for money laundering after financial authorities detected that it received US $156 million from bank accounts in Switzerland and more than 20 other countries.

The Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) said in a statement this week that its Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) received a financial system report alerting it to unusual financial movements in different bank accounts held in the name of a public university.

“The financial system reported the execution of deposits and international transfers coming from more than 22 countries; Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom, among others. Among the most relevant movements, it was detected that an educational center received around $150 million from bank accounts located in Switzerland,” the SHCP said.

UIF chief Santiago Nieto revealed yesterday that the Hidalgo university is under investigation and its accounts have been frozen. He pledged that there would be no impunity in the case, even if people linked to Mexico’s ruling party, Morena, are found to be involved.

“At the moment, I can’t give more information, I can only confirm that it is indeed the university [of Hidalgo]. The president of the republic has told me that we must have zero tolerance with corruption and zero tolerance for impunity. It doesn’t matter what party it is, this affects the financial system,” he said.

The revelation that the UAEH is suspected of money laundering came at the end of a difficult week for the university.

Last Saturday, the son of UAEH council chairman and former chancellor Gerardo Sosa Castelán was shot and killed, while on Monday the university’s official Facebook page was hacked.

Hidalgo Governor Omar Fayad acknowledged yesterday that “things have happened” since the homicide of Gerardo Sosa Cravioto in the municipality of Acaxochitlán and said he had instructed the state’s attorney general to do all he could to facilitate investigations into the crimes.

He also called on the family of the murder victim to provide any information it has that could help authorities in their inquiries.

Sosa Castelán, who is likely to come under investigation as part of the money laundering probe, is a former federal lawmaker with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) but distanced himself from the party after losing an internal contest to become the candidate for governor of Hidalgo in 2005.

He is now linked to and a supporter of President López Obrador’s Morena party although he is not a formal member, the newspaper Milenio said.

Current university chancellor Adolfo Pontigo Loyola yesterday denied that the university was involved in money laundering or other corrupt activities.

“We don’t have any money that is not the university’s nor have we received money from any country. Money that is deposited in university accounts . . . is strictly money of the institution,” he said.

Pontigo claimed that both state and federal authorities have completed audits of the university’s accounts and found no irregularities.

“The autonomous [university] of Hidalgo is among the best public education institutions in the country. We were never participants in the master fraud,” he said, referring to a corruption scheme in which federal agencies diverted government money through public universities.

“We’re among the best 1,200 [universities] in the world and above all, the Federal Auditor’s Office has audited us. We haven’t had any problem,” Pontigo added.

The chancellor said he was willing to support a wider investigation into the university’s finances but again stressed that authorities “won’t find any legal irregularity or extraordinary resources that shouldn’t be here and that are not of the university.”

Source: El Financiero (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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