Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto had misrepresented a land deal to authorities in which he acquired a property, adding to the widening controversies surrounding his personal finances, Reuters reported on Friday.
Pena Nieto claimed he had acquired the property -- a parcel of land in the town of Valle de Bravo in Mexico state -- in 1988 through a “donation” from his father. He reportedly disclosed the details -- which were made public in 2013 as part of a transparency and anti-graft drive -- in an asset declaration.
However, a review of public documents by Reuters revealed that he actually purchased the property from a third party, paying around 11.2 million pesos, worth about $5,000 at the time. However, in his wealth declaration, he said the property was worth only 11,200 “old” pesos, which would have been equivalent to around $5 at the time. The old pesos were replaced with the new currency in 1993.
Mexican public officials are required to accurately declare how they acquired their properties. Pena Nieto also listed eight other properties in the asset declaration, five of which were listed as donations. Reuters was unable to determine why he mischaracterized the property in question, and whether the others listed as donations were accurately declared.
The president’s office reportedly refused to comment on the matter.
Pena Nieto’s presidency has been dogged with accusations of corruption surrounding him and his wife, Angelica Rivera. Investigative journalist Carmen Aristegui and her team last year revealed that Rivera had purchased a multi-billion dollar home from a government contractor who was given a $3.75 billion high-speed rail contract.
Aristegui was later fired from the radio station where she and her team worked. She reportedly said it was an effort by the government to silence her.
The Wall Street Journal in January also reported that Pena Nieto purchased a home from a developer, which later won a major public works contract.
The Reuters investigation was published just days after Pena Nieto unveiled a set of major constitutional reforms, targeted at ending corruption.
However, the new reforms maintain a presidential immunity from corruption, which critics say aligns in favor of Pena Nieto. “Corruption is a major problem in Mexico,” Ernesto Gomez Magana, executive director of the Citizen Participation of Citizen Oversight for Accountability, told Mexican news website Sin Embargo. “Given that it has kept pace with impunity, there is little confidence in the government’s actions. The major challenge now is the implementation of the new law.”
Pena Nieto is set to publish his annual asset declaration again this week, which will reportedly include more details about the discrepancy, according to Reuters. He is, however, not obligated to reveal his wife’s assets because she is not a public official or financially dependent on him.