MEXICO CITY – The private home of President Enrique Pena Nieto was built and is registered under the name of a company connected to a controversial high-speed rail contract that he abruptly cancelled last week, according to a report by a leading Mexican journalist.
The $7 million, 13,000-square-foot home in Mexico City’s most exclusive neighbourhood was built and is owned by Ingenieria Inmobiliaria del Centro, a company belonging to Grupo Higa, according the report published Sunday by Aristegui Noticias, website of journalist Carmen Aristegui.
Constructora Teya, another Grupo Higa company, was part of a Chinese-led consortium that received the $3.7 billion, Mexico-Queretaro high-speed rail contract, a project Pena Nieto showcased as part of his push to modernize transportation in the country. Opposition lawmakers criticized the rapid approval process that produce only one bidder as smacking of the insider favours long associated with Pena Nieto’s political party, the institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
The winning consortium included China Railway Construction Corp. and the Mexican firms Constructora y Edificadora GIA, GHP Infraestructura Mexicana, Prodemex and Constructora Teya.
A government statement released late Thursday said the bidding process will be reopened to give others a chance at the project.
According to the Aristegui article, the modern, all-white house with a lighting system to cast it in a variety of colours has never been declared by Pena Nieto in his disclosure statements. It says the disclosures of his wife, former actress Angelica Rivera, are confidential. The property is connected to a home owned by Rivera.
The article did not specify what laws if any are broken by the president using a house registered under another name.
Aristegui couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.
Pena Nieto’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the Aristegui article, Grupo Higa and its affiliates were granted more than $8 billion pesos ($600 million) in construction projects in the state of Mexico when Pena Nieto was governor. Eolo Plus, an air-charter service owned by Grupo Higa, ferried Pena Nieto and other officials during his 2012 presidential campaign, while another Grupo Higa company printed campaign materials.
The article was also published Sunday by the investigative magazine Proceso.