Thursday, October 28

The Master Scam trial also threatens Luis Videgaray

Luis Videgaray swore Enrique Peña Nieto during the inauguration of his position as Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Luis Videgaray swore Enrique Peña Nieto during the inauguration of his position as Secretary of Foreign AffairsMarco Ugarte / AP

More and more fingers are pointing directly to former Secretary of the Treasury Luis Videgaray. First it was Emilio Lozoya, the former director of Pemex accused of corruption in the Odebrecht case, who accused him in the summer of being responsible, along with former president Enrique Peña Nieto, of receiving and managing bribes from the Brazilian construction company. This week the statement of a former Senate official was known, who has identified Videgaray as the man who ordered him in 2013 to distribute suitcases full of wads of bills among the opposition to carry out the energy reform. And now it is Emilio Zebadúa, a former senior position in two secretaries, Social Development (Sedesol) and Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (Sedatu), who accuses him of ordering the diversion of millionaire resources from social programs against hunger to buy votes and to finance PRI campaign events.

The new accusation is part of the process of the mega plot of corruption perpetrated during the years of the previous government known as the Master Scam and that would be around 7,760 million pesos (about 380 million dollars). Up to two occasions the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has already presented an arrest warrant against Videgaray for the Odebrecht case, according to a report leaked these weeks. The judges have dismissed them for the moment for reasons of form, but the fence of Justice is tightening more and more. Now, there is not one but two open judicial fronts against the one who was the strong man of Enrique Peña Nieto and his campaign manager in 2012.

Zebadúa’s statement, to which the media has had access Political Animal, points to “a general strategy both social and political-electoral in which most of the government agencies would participate.” A plan to fraudulently divert millionaire resources that, according to his version, began from the arrival to power of Peña Nieto in 2012 and whose main actor was the then Secretary of the Treasury. “One of the branches of this strategy was called the National Crusade against Hunger, by which non-budgeted public resources would be diverted to brigade campaigns, the media and social organization in a large number of strategic municipalities throughout the country, in addition to proselytizing acts or buying votes ”, adds the witness in his statement.

The National Crusade Against Hunger was the star social program of the previous Administration. Announced in January 2013 through an act with electoral overtones in Chiapas, it involved the merger of 70 government programs that already existed and a total financing of more than 500 million pesos. The president and head of the Social Development Secretariat (Sedesol), Rosario Robles, who in 2015 would go on to lead Sedatu, participated in that event. Robles, Zebadúa’s boss during the two charges, is currently the only high-level official charged in the Master Scam case.

Since August last year, Robles has been incarcerated as a preventive prison while his responsibility in the embezzlement of some 5,000 million pesos (about 240 million dollars) from the two secretaries is being investigated. During his hearing before the judge, the defense already put on the table the names of both former president Peña Nieto, and José Antonio Meade, the last PRI candidate for Los Pinos after directing the Treasury and succeeding Robles herself at the head of the Development portfolio Social.

Both agencies are at the heart of a convoluted web of diversion of public resources that includes eight more Secretariats, another eight public universities and 186 shell companies. The fraudulent triangulation of money consisted, according to the investigation, in the signing of agreements that the federal secretariats signed with educational institutions so that they would hire companies in exchange for services that were never provided.

Zebadúa, Robles’ right-hand man, maintains that Videgaray asked his boss to channel Sedesol resources to pay debts acquired during Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidential election campaign. After an alleged meeting between the two secretaries, Zebadúa received the order to “hire one or more companies to be able to cover a campaign commitment of about one billion pesos that was owed to the owners.” On March 1, 2013 and May 6, 2013, Zebadúa himself, as a senior official of Sedesol, signed two general agreements with the autonomous universities of the State of Mexico and Morelos. According to Zebadúa’s statement, it was the Ministry of Finance that approved the “extraordinary resources” that were injected into public agencies and that were later transferred to companies and universities.

When the accusations against him began to come to light, Videgaray stepped down as director of the Global Project on Artificial Intelligence Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The former secretary of Hazando has moved his residence to Israel, one of the countries with a more restricted extradition treaty with Mexico, and where the former director of the Criminal Investigation Agency of the PGR, Tomás Zerón, has allegedly been a fugitive for months. on whom an extradition request from the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador already weighs.

Accused of bribery and treason, according to the leaked PGR report, Videgaray is currently the highest position against whom the Prosecutor’s Office has requested an arrest warrant for the Odebrecht case and the illegal financing of Peña Nieto’s presidential campaign. A case that increasingly haunts the former president himself, on which the Prosecutor’s Office also plans a formal accusation according to the leaks of these weeks.

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