Mexico president launches probe to quell corruption charges

MEXICO CITY - President Enrique Pena Nieto announced new anti-corruption measures Tuesday with the goal of preventing conflicts of interest with public administration members, and to fight corruption.

Amongst eight actions presented, Pena Nieto said federal government representatives will have to renew annually a declaration of any possible conflicts by listing, for example, the companies they own.

The president also announced the creation of a new ethics committee and named the former Electoral Counsellor Virgilio Andrede Martinez as the new minister of civil service.

Pena Nieto immediately asked the new minister to investigate controversial purchases of three residences from public contractors by the president, his wife, and his finance minister.

Although Pena Nieto alleged he has never been implicated in any conflict of interest during his public service, he committed himself to offer a transparent response to “several accusations of possible conflict of interests that have been formulated during the last months.”

The government asked the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development for assistance in the investigation and to evaluate its results “in an attempt to build confidence and transparency,” said Pena Nieto.

The Pena Nieto administration has battled three months of corruption accusations regarding the purchase by the first lady of a multi-million dollar house that was first owned by Grupo Higa, a construction firm that received public contracts from the president while he was the governor of Mexico state.

Grupo Higa was also linked to a Chinese-led consortium that won a coveted high-speed train contract in November. The construction was canceled a few days later when allegations of corruption surfaced regarding the granting of the contract.

The Wall Street Journal published an investigative article in December about a luxurious house in the state of Mexico that Finance Minister Luis Videgaray bought from the same contractor.

One month later, the paper published another story that revealed other potential conflicts of interest in the purchase of a house by Pena Nieto in Ixtapan, also in Mexico state.

According to the investigation, the house was bought from Constructora Urbanizadora Ixtapan, a company that obtained public contracts from the president while he was governor of the state of Mexico.

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