By Louise Story and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab / New York Times
In the fall of 2013, one of Mexico’s top housing officials posted an item on Twitter about an advertising campaign promoting mortgages for low-income Mexicans. The campaign’s message was simple: “The most important thing in life is in your house.”
It carried the tag line, “Homes with value.”
The official, Alejandro Murat Hinojosa, knows something about homes with value, especially across the border.
Over the years, he and members of his immediate family — starting with his father, José Murat Casab, a former governor of Oaxaca — have bought at least six properties in the United States, including two condominiums near a ski resort in Utah, another at the beach in South Texas and at least one in Manhattan, according to records and interviews. In New York, José Murat’s children have also lived for periods of time in one of the more modest condos at the luxurious Time Warner Center overlooking Central Park.
The Murats’ real estate holdings stand in contrast to the Everyman image that José Murat, renowned for his political might and booming personality, worked to project as governor.
“I arrived to the state government with my wife, Lupita, and my four children,” he said a year before his term ended in 2004. “And I’m leaving as I arrived, with the same trousers, with the same shoes, with the same shirts and the same car.”
The Murat properties, which emerged during a Times investigation into the people behind shell companies that own condominiums at the Time Warner Center, have not been the subject of any official inquiry and there is no evidence of any wrongdoing behind the purchases. But the private assets of Mexico’s public officials have come under intense focus recently with a fresh round of revelations and protests centered on the country’s endemic corruption.