LatinNews Daily - 23 February 2022

MEXICO: Speculation mounts over investigations into president’s son

On 22 February, sources told Mexican media that the federal attorney general’s office (FGR) had opened an investigation into a potential conflict of interest case involving President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s son, José Ramón López Beltrán.

Analysis:

The opposition Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) filed a complaint before the FGR on 3 February, after it emerged on 27 January that López Beltrán had lived in a luxury house in Houston city (Texas) belonging to a former employee of Baker Hughes, an oil logistics company that holds contracts with Mexico’s state-run oil company Pemex. This is one of two potential conflict of interest concerns surrounding López Obrador’s son, which the political opposition states contradict the president’s austerity and anti-corruption discourse.

  • Sources close to the FGR confirmed to El País and Animal Político that the investigation had been opened, although the FGR has yet to issue an official statement.
  • On 22 February, PAN senator Xóchitl Gálvez stated that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had also accepted a complaint filed about the case and would open an investigation.
  • The complaints derive from an investigation by local anti-corruption NGO Mexicanos contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (MCCI) that found that López Beltrán rented a house from Keith Schilling, then an executive at Baker Hughes.
  • In a press conference on 21 February, López Obrador said he did not have any information about the investigations. The president said the case was “a smear campaign” aimed at undermining his authority. He said the upcoming recall vote on 10 April would allow those who do not like his government to say so.
  • On 21 February, Baker Hughes Vice President for Mexico and Latin America Bob Pérez presented the results of an investigation by Houston-based compliance and litigation firm R. McConnell Group into the case, which he said discounted any alleged conflict of interest.
  • The investigation found that Schilling had “no involvement” in Baker Hughes’ work in Mexico. It also stated that Baker Hughes had no knowledge of Schillings’ rental agreements.

Looking Ahead: The opposition is now likely to concentrate on the other potential conflict of interest concern surrounding López Beltrán – his work for KEI Partners, a Houston-based housing developer. KEI Partners is owned by the children of Daniel Chávez Morán, a supervisor on López Obrador’s Tren Maya railway project and owner of Grupo Vidanta, a Mexican tourism consortium that has ongoing concessions with the Mexican government.

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