New ties emerge between high-ranking Mexican officials and builder

By Juan Montes / Wall Street Journal

Mexico’s finance minister bought a home from a prominent government contractor who is at the center of influence-peddling allegations roiling President Enrique Peña Nieto ’s administration, documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal show.

Property records show that the minister, Luis Videgaray, widely seen as the driving force behind Mexico’s recent economic overhauls, bought the house in an exclusive golf resort outside the picturesque town of Malinalco, in the central State of Mexico, from Bienes Raíces.

Bienes Raices, commercial records show, is owned by Juan Armando Hinojosa, whose companies have won hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of public-works projects during Peña Nieto’s time as governor of the State of Mexico and during his current administration.

Videgaray isn’t accused of an illegal act. But the transaction adds to the appearance of conflicts of interest that have damaged Peña Nieto’s credibility and popularity after he came to office promising a break from the clubby practices of his ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party’s past.

It also is a fresh example of the extensive business and personal links between the contractor and senior government officials.

Videgaray, in written response to questions from the Journal, said that he bought the house from Hinojosa in October 2012, a few months before Peña Nieto’s administration took office on Dec. 1. By then, Videgaray was widely tipped as the next finance minister.

“There was no conflict of interest. I did the deal when I was not holding public office, and the deal was within market parameters,” Videgaray said.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-ties-emerge-between-mexico-government-and-builder-1418344492?KEYWORDS=mexico