Mexican right-wing presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya, who is polling second in national surveys, is being accused of corruption and money laundering by opposition parties who demanded he be barred from the presidential race after his own party called for an investigation into the allegations.
The backlash against Anaya comes few weeks after a national news channel aired a video in which two business people can be seen testifying to Mexico's General Prosecutors' office, or PGR. that he was involved in fraudulent activities.
Anaya allegedly bought a piece of land from entrepreneur Barreiro Castañeda for US$10.7 million Mexican pesos, about US$532,000, in which he built an industrial facility. He then sold it again to Castañeda for US$54 million pesos, almost US$2.9 million.
Prosecutors claim Castañeda and Anaya used a network of shell enterprises, front men and tax havens to hide the money's origin then buy the land again with an added value.
The accusations have given members of his own party doubts about his candidacy for president, who last week demanded an immediate investigation from the PGR.
The main witnesses and informants are two businessmen who were allegedly hired by Castañeda between 2016 and 2017 to help him and Anaya use shell companies “Juniserra” and “Manhattan Master Plan Development.”
Mexico's Tax Administration Service, or SAT, already flagged Manhattan Master Plan Development as a shell company, despite its lawyer's claims that it is a “legal company” with “real assets and operations.”
Anaya and his team claim the accusations are political, as they have been endorsed by several leading figures of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI. Javier Lozano, the campaign coordinator for PRI candidate Jose Antonio Meade, said “I told you so,” regarding Anaya's corruption scandal.
Lozano revealed documents that supposedly confirm the fraud network showing that the Manhattan Master Plan Development company was created recently under the signatures of Castañeda's employees, including his driver. This suggests that Castañeda and Anaya previously agreed on the transactions.
Anaya responded to the accusations by saying that if five percent of what “the PRI is making up” about the money laundering accusations were true, the PGR knows where to find him, since “the intelligence services are following [him] the whole day.”
He also claims the accusations have the aim to divert attention from PRI candidate Meade, who has been accused of embezzling about $500 million pesos, about US$26.62 million, when he was the Social Development Secretary.
But the accusations against Anaya are so convincing that opposition parties and members of his own party want him removedfrom the presidential race.
Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, member of Anaya's National Action Party, or PAN, and President of the Senate, demanded that the prosecutor's office investigate Anaya and clarify his involvement in the corruption scandal. “If Anaya is responsible I think we can't allow ourselves to have a candidate suspect of being a criminal,” said Cordero.
He also said that the accusations against Anaya were getting more convincing with time as evidence emerges.
Zoe Robledo Aburto, the Vice Coordinator for the leftist opposition coalition, said accusations against Anaya were “not only affecting him, but all the democratic process... because it's all about his accusations now.”
Robledo said Anaya is now all about explanations and excuses instead of projects, and that his party should already be thinking about who's going to replace him in the presidential race. But Anaya seems confident his party will back him up. “I will win the election and overwhelmingly so,” he said brushing off criticism.
Anaya's candidacy for president caused serious internal divisions within the PAN, as many oppose him and what they call “his authoritarian tendencies.”