MEXICO CITY (AP) – The private home of President Enrique Peña Nieto was built and is registered under the name of a company connected to a controversial high-speed rail contract that he abruptly canceled last week, according to a report by a leading Mexican journalist.
The $7 million home on a 15,220-square-foot property in Mexico City's most exclusive neighborhood was built and is owned by Ingenieria Inmobiliaria del Centro, a company belonging to Grupo Higa, according the report published Sunday by Aristegui Noticias, website of journalist Carmen Aristegui.
Constructora Teya, another Grupo Higa company, was part of a Chinese-led consortium that received the $3.7 billion, Mexico-Queretaro high-speed rail contract, a project Peña Nieto showcased as part of his push to modernize transportation in the country. Opposition lawmakers criticized the rapid approval process that produced only one bidder as smacking of the insider favors long associated with Peña Nieto's political party, the institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
The winning consortium included China Railway Construction Corp. and the Mexican firms Constructora y Edificadora GIA, GHP Infraestructura Mexicana, Prodemex and Constructora Teya.
A government statement released late Thursday said the bidding process will be reopened to give others a chance at the project.
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According to the Aristegui article, the modern, all-white house with a lighting system to cast it in a variety of colors has never been declared by Peña Nieto in his disclosure statements. It says the disclosures of his wife, former actress Angelica Rivera, are confidential. The property is connected to a home owned by Rivera.
The article did not specify what laws if any are broken by the president using a house registered under another name.
Aristegui couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.
The Office of the President issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying Rivera signed a contract to buy the house almost a year before Peña Nieto took office, independent of her husband. She had a down payment of 30 percent of the cost.
It notes that Rivera, a popular actress and singer, has the resources and is making payments to the builder, Ingenieria Inmobiliaria del Centro. Once she has paid off the debt, the ownership of the house will be changed to Rivera's name, the statement said.
According to the Aristegui article, Grupo Higa and its affiliates were granted more than $8 billion pesos ($600 million) in construction projects in the state of Mexico when Peña Nieto was governor. Eolo Plus, an air-charter service owned by Grupo Higa, ferried Peña Nieto and other officials during his 2012 presidential campaign, while another Grupo Higa company printed campaign materials.
The article was also published Sunday by the investigative magazine Proceso.