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  • After a year of investigative journalism, three reporters uncovered the Mexican corruption case of La Estafa Maestra

    After a year of investigative journalism, three reporters uncovered the Mexican corruption case of La Estafa Maestra | Photo: EFE

Published 27 February 2019
Opinion

Over 31 criminal complaints have been filed against 14 public universities in Mexico for money laundering and embezzlement, during Former president Enrique Peña Nieto's government.

Local Mexican media are denouncing that 14 public universities were used, during Enrique Peña Nieto's (EPN) presidency, to divert resources and have been criminally sued. The Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) of the Mexican Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit blocked on Tuesday the accounts of one of these universities, for receiving money from abroad.

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In total there have been 31 criminal complaints against Public Universities in Mexico, in a lapse of time that coincides with the EPN government period. These complaints were made to the Attorney General's Office (PGR) against 14 public universities, where some institutions gathered more than one complaint.

The 14 public universities are distributed around Mexican territory and in different states of the federation. The one that has the most complaints is the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM) with nine, then comes the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos (UAEMOR) with seven, then many of them have two or one criminal complaints.

The majority of these cases are linked to the Mexican La Estafa Maestra (Master Scam) case, revealed by the local news network Animal Politico. According to the reports, public agencies arranged agreements between them for specific "services," but didn't had the capacity to give the service so had to hire a third party, usually a "ghost" company to give the service, and that is how money usually ended in private hands.

In this scheme, the government dependencies and the universities used an exception to the Procurement Law in which public agencies can "hire" other public agencies for "services" without going through a bidding process, avoiding the obligation to do a public contest where the providers compete for the resources and are chosen among those who give the better conditions.

Adding to this, as public universities are considered as "non-profit" entities they are not obliged to deliver accounting reports regarding the companies hired as providers, as do other companies and entities that are considered "lucrative" according to the Tax Administration Service (SAT).

It has been four years since the first criminal complaint was filed, however, there has not been any former or current officials who have been processed for these cases.

On Tuesday, the UIF stated that it had blocked one of the universities banking accounts, but did not reveal which one in order to maintain due process. The UIF had detected that said university had received over US $150 Million from banking entities from over 22 countries, such as Swiss, Spain and the United Kingdom.

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