Mexican president orders inquiry into report that aide paid shell firms

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks to the media during a news conference in Villa Hermosa
FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks to the media during a news conference in Villa Hermosa

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged authorities on Monday to look into a report accusing a top aide of financial impropriety, while calling it part of a media campaign aimed at bringing his administration into disrepute.

Newspaper El Universal said Lopez Obrador's private secretary Alejandro Esquer had hired shell companies in the 2018 presidential election campaign when Esquer was finance secretary of the ruling National Regeneration Movement party (MORENA).

One of the companies the paper said Esquer had paid for campaign-related services was in September included in a list of firms found by federal tax authorities to lack the means to provide the services advertised in its receipts.

The report was the latest question mark about the probity of people close to Lopez Obrador, who has made fighting corruption the cornerstone of his administration. The president's office did not reply to a request for comment from Esquer.

Responding to questions about the report in a regular news conference, Lopez Obrador said he was unaware of the alleged contracts and that the matter should be "looked into".

Calling the report "part of the campaign to discredit our government", Lopez Obrador said authorities would make their findings public in due course.

Separately, the head of the finance ministry's financial intelligence unit, Santiago Nieto, told news network Milenio his office had not found anything to incriminate a brother of the president over revelations that surfaced a few months ago.

In August, videos were leaked of the brother, Pio Lopez Obrador, receiving cash in 2015 from a man during a regional election campaign. The man later won a post in the government when Lopez Obrador took office in December 2018.

The president described the cash as contributions to his political movement but ordered federal prosecutors to investigate. They have yet to declare their findings.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Mark Heinrich)