MEXICO CITY – President Enrique Pena Nieto faced new questions about his personal assets Wednesday after a report that he purchased a home from a businessman whose company won public works contracts worth millions of dollars.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Pena Nieto bought the country-club house in Ixtapan de la Sal, about 70 miles (120 kilometres) south of the capital, from Roberto San Roman shortly after becoming governor of the state of Mexico in 2005.
It reported that San Roman’s construction company won more than $100 million in state government contracts between 2005 and 2011, and at least 11 federal contracts of unspecified value after Pena Nieto became president in 2012. The company had not previously carried out any federal works projects.
Pena Nieto’s office said in a statement that the purchase of the $372,000 house was legal and it appears in his declared assets.
The presidency said Pena Nieto does not participate in the assigning of public works contracts. It added that any qualified company may bid on government projects, and 6,534 contracts have been awarded to more than 4,000 firms since 2012.
It is the third time in recent months that Pena Nieto, family members or associates have come under scrutiny for real estate linked to companies doing business with the government.
In November an investigation revealed that his wife, first lady Angelica Rivera, had acquired a luxury mansion in Mexico City from a subsidiary of Grupo Higa. Another subsidiary of the company was part of a consortium that won a $3.7 billion contract that month to build a high-speed rail line.
The concession was cancelled and reopened to new bids. Rivera said she was making payments of the home with earnings from her 25-year career as an actress, but announced that she would sell her stake in the property.
Last month it was reported that a subsidiary of Grupo Higa, which also won contracts during Pena Nieto’s time as governor, had sold a home to Treasury Secretary Luis Videgaray.
Videgaray said he bought it in October 2012, more than a month before he or Pena Nieto took office, and there was no conflict of interest.
At the time of the transaction, Videgaray, who was Pena Nieto’s finance secretary for Mexico state from 2005 to 2011, was co-ordinating the president-elect’s transition. Pena Nieto took office Dec. 1, 2012.
Amid criticism over his wife’s house, Pena Nieto made a public declaration of his income and assets. It said he earned $248,000 in 2013 from salary and unspecified financial activities and owns four houses, an apartment and four other properties.