Mexico's Attorney General's Office has newly opened investigations into allegations that President Enrique Peña Nieto accepted funds from a possible money laundering and financial fraud network during his presidential campaign, a case which, if unraveled, would represent a major step forward for the justice system.
According to Reforma, approximately $1.75 million were received by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate in 2012 from various "virtual" companies linked to the construction company Edicom that are under investigation for suspicious financial transactions.
Two key suspects in the case, Raul Alvarez Longoria and Ricardo Mauro Calzada Cisneros, funneled $773,000 and $993,000, respectively, via electronic cards issued by financial group Monex, to the PRI, according to Reforma. The two men have been tied to each other through money deposited into an HSBC bank account.
In July last year, the runner-up in Mexico's elections, Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, alleged that Peña Nieto benefitted from funds of illicit origin during his campaign. The case centered on the Monex cards, and the finding that two companies that, according to invoices, purchased large amounts of these cards appeared to be nonexistent.
The opposition National Action Party (PAN) also accused the PRI of using the Monex cards to buy votes, but the charges were dropped after it was found that Edicom was also linked to the campaign money of PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota.
InSight Crime Analysis
The pursuit of a case that involves the current president could represent an important step in Mexico, where corrupt politicians with organized crime ties are common and money laundering prosecutions are rare. A lack of political will often hinders progress in money laundering cases, and this is a particular risk when the target is the president himself.
The case also shows how politics in Mexico are often tied into corruption cases, with accusations hurled from all sides, as seen in a case against a Tamaulipas governor. Exposing a politician's dirty money is a prime way to ruin his credibility, and using information to buy influence, jobs and political favors is a Mexican political mainstay.
Ultimately, the case will serve as an important test of whether the country's Attorney General's Office is able to carry out a fully independent, fair investigation, free of political pressures.