Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico president orders probe into his home purchases

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto congratulates Virgilio Andrade Martinez during a press conference to announce Mr Andrade's appointment as the Secretary of Public Administration in Mexico City on 3 February, 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption President Pena Nieto (left) tasked Virgilio Andrade with investigating a number of purchases

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has ordered an investigation into purchases of homes by himself, his wife and the finance minister.

Mr Pena Nieto said he had asked the federal comptroller Virgilio Andrade to probe the purchases of luxury houses from government contractors.

The president said there had been allegations of a conflict of interest, which he denied.

Critics said he should have chosen an independent body to conduct the probe.

A scandal erupted last year when it emerged that Mr Pena Nieto's wife, Angelica Rivera, had bought a luxury home from a subsidiary of Mexican company Grupo Higa.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The scandal surrounding the home purchase by Ms Rivera became known as the "White House" scandal

Critics pointed to the fact that Grupo Higa was part of a consortium awarded a multi-billion-dollar contract to build a bullet train in Mexico.

Ms Rivera said she had bought the house with her own finances, which she said were separate from those of her husband.

She sold the house following public outrage.

The project for the bullet train has since been shelved because of budget cuts.

Finance Minister Luis Videgaray had also bought a house from the same company.

The scandal deepened further when it emerged that during his time as governor of Mexico state, Mr Pena Nieto had also bought a home from another government contractor.

All three have denied any wrongdoing.

But critics said the fact that Mr Pena Nieto tasked a government department with the investigation and named its new chief himself, suggested he wanted to put a lid on the scandal.

The post of director of Mexico's Public Administration Department, the body charged with the probe, had been vacant for two years before Mr Andrade's appointment.

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