MEXICO CITY, July 19 (UPI) — Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has apologized for a $7 million luxury home buying scandal of which he and his wife Angelica Rivera were previously cleared of wrongdoing.
Last August, an investigation by Mexico’s Public Function Secretariat found no conflict of interest perpetrated by Peña Nieto or Mexican Finance Secretary Jose Luis Videgaray over awarding contracts to companies that sold homes to them and first lady Rivera, according to federal comptroller Virgilio Andrade.
“There was no conflict of interest,” Andrade then told reporters. “Independently of what public opinion has established, this is the legal dimension of the case.”
Peña Nieto on Monday apologized, stating the scandal damaged the Mexican people’s faith in the presidency. He said he did not break the law and promised to work harder to fight corruption.
“For this reason, with all humility I ask your forgiveness,” Peña Nieto said while addressing political leaders during the unveiling of a new anti-corruption system broadcast on television. “I repeat my sincere and profound apology for the offense and indignation I have caused you.”
Andrade cleared Peña Nieto, stating it is not his role to make decisions as president over government contracts. The scandal generated mass criticism of Peña Nieto’s government, accused of nepotism and corruption.
The investigation concluded that neither Peña Nieto nor Videgaray had a role in helping the Grupo Higa holding company and its subsidiaries obtain 22 federal government contracts worth about $76 million. Andrade also concluded they received no benefits from Grupo Higa’s contracts.
The scandal traces back to an investigation published in 2014 that revealed that Peña Nieto and his family owned a $7 million home built by a subsidiary of Grupo Higa.
Peña Nieto and his government associates denied any wrongdoing, and Rivera, a famous telenovela star, consistently asserted that her career in entertainment allowed her family to buy the home.
Andrade said the investigation confirmed that all payments related to the property deals came from Rivera’s personal bank account.
Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, incurred heavy losses in recent local elections. He is facing a re-election bid in 2018.