A former Mexican senior Cabinet minister, Luis Videgaray, has been banned from holding jobs or positions in public service for 10 years for failing to properly disclose his assets while in office, the Mexican government said on Tuesday.
The Public Administration Ministry (SFP) said it had applied the maximum possible sanction against Videgaray for making incorrect declarations for three years running during his time as finance minister and later as foreign minister.
Videgaray, who was widely viewed as the most influential minister under Mexico’s previous president, Enrique Pena Nieto, denied that he had made improper disclosures, saying on Twitter that he would appeal against the decision.
Videgaray, who has rejected any allegations of wrongdoing, said in a statement the SFP had identified omissions in his asset declarations relating to bank accounts.
Videgaray said these were in fact credit cards which he had mentioned in an annex to his declarations, and they had no outstanding debts on them at the time.
“The declarations are correct and there was no intention to hide information about assets from the SFP,” he said, adding that the SFP had acknowledged in the notification sent to him that he had obtained “no benefit” from the alleged omissions.
The SFP later responded to Videgaray’s remarks, saying that the omissions were bank accounts, which contained sums of money that should have been declared.
The SFP said it had opened a probe in 2019 into Videgaray over his possible involvement in the 2014 purchase by state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) of a fertilizer plant known as AgroNitrogenados, which later caused a scandal.
Asked publicly in February 2020 about his role in scandals in Mexico, including investigations relating to Pemex, Videgaray said that he had done good things and made mistakes as a policymaker, but that he stood by his track record.
Videgaray was notified of the sanction on May 11, but the news was not made public until now due to the campaign for mid-term elections, which were held on Sunday, the SFP said.
Mexico’s government argues the plant deal wasted millions of dollars in public money and was tainted by corruption.
The acquisition of AgroNitrogenados forms part of a broader investigation by federal prosecutors into allegations of graft under the Pena Nieto administration.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador accuses the preceding administration of scheming to case the break up of Pemex to benefit private interests.
The SFP said the sanction handed down against Videgaray was independent of any other investigations that may be under way.
Photo: Former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA