MEXICO CITY, Mexico’s finance minister acknowledged Friday having purchased a luxury home from the same government contractor who controversially sold a mansion to the nation’s first lady, but insisted the transaction was entirely legal. The home purchase was carried out with “honesty and legality” as he has conducted himself “my entire life,” said Finance Minister Luis Videgaray in a radio interview.
Videgaray, who bought the home with a $532,000 loan from the seller, said the transaction was “within market parameters,” and added that it took place two months before President Enrique Pena Nieto assumed office in December 2012. The real estate deal came to light Thursday in reporting by the Wall Street Journal. The US newspaper noted that there appeared to be nothing untoward about the property purchase itself. But the daily noted that revelations about the sale comes amid continuing controversy over the sale of a different mansion by the same contractor to First Lady Angelica Rivera.
Revelations that Rivera purchased a multi-million dollar manse from Grupo Higa, subsidiary of a company headed by Mexican mogul Juan Armando Hinojosa, set the controversy in motion.News reports have said Hinojosa’s companies have won hundreds of millions of dollars’ in public-works projects from Pena Nieto, both during his presidency and during his time as governor of Mexico state.
Grupo Higa later briefly won a lucrative $3.7 billion lucrative bullet train contract, but Pena Nieto abruptly canceled the deal after the opposition raised concerns about transparency because the group was the only bidder. A short time after that sale fell through, media reports revealed that Grupo Higa also was a subsidiary of a company building the first lady’s custom-made mansion to silence her critics, Rivera announced she was canceling the home purchase.
The scandal has contributed to an erosion of support for President Pena Nieto, whose government already has suffered a black eye over the apparent murders of 43 missing university students.