December 12, 2014 / 3:09 AM / 3 years ago

Mexico finance minister bought home from government contractor in scandal: WSJ

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Mexico's Finance Minister Luis Videgaray speaks during a panel discussion at the North American Energy Summit in the Manhattan borough of New York, June 10, 2014.Adam Hunger

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's finance minister bought a home from a government contractor who is at the center of a conflict-of-interest scandal embroiling President Enrique Pena Nieto and his administration, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Property records show that the minister, Luis Videgaray, bought the house at an exclusive golf resort outside the town of Malinalco in the central State of Mexico from Bienes Raices H&G SA, the Journal reported.

The firm, commercial records show, is owned by Juan Armando Hinojosa, whose companies have won hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of public-works projects during Pena Nieto’s time as governor of the State of Mexico and during his current administration, the report said.

Videgaray, in a letter released by his ministry late on Thursday, said there was no conflict of interest. The purchase of the home was made in October 2012, before he held public office, and was within "market parameters", he said.

"I categorically reiterate that I am absolutely convinced that I have acted honestly and in full compliance with the law," Videgaray said in the statement.

In the statement, he said he took out a mortgage for the home from the company itself, he said, adding that he paid off the full amount in January 2014 for "financial reasons."

Last month, the government abruptly canceled a $3.75 billion high-speed rail contract awarded to a consortium led by China Railway Construction Corp Ltd, partnered with a group of Mexican firms including a unit of Hinojosa's Grupo Higa.

It was later revealed that a subsidiary of Grupo Higa owned another luxury house that Pena Nieto's wife, Angelica Rivera, was in the process of acquiring, raising questions about the tender and prompting her to announce she would give up the house.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Jean Luis Arce; Editing by Ken Wills, Robert Birsel

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