JUAREZ, Mexico — The State of Chihuahua is one step closer to re-opening an investigation against a former political party official who allegedly appropriated $13.8 million in state funds in 2016.
The inquiry against Alejandro Gutierrez, a former top official of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, stalled when the Mexican federal government declined to prosecute, and legal wrangling ensued over whether a local government could take over the prosecution.
In a press release earlier this week, Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral said the Mexican Supreme Court determined Gutierrez can be investigated for violation of local laws regarding the case.
The case is still held up by a federal judge’s restraining order, but when that is resolved, state prosecutors “will get to the bottom of this, and if it leads to (former Mexican president) Enrique Pena Nieto, we will go after Pena Nieto,” Corral said in the statement.
The money allegedly was funneled to PRI through fake federal contracts for educational and sports services for the state, a scheme known as “Operation Sapphire.” The former PRI official has denied the charges.
Corral said he suspects the former president of Mexico to be involved in the scheme.
“Of course, we assume and believe that this multi-million dollar misappropriation of public resources had his (Pena Nieto’s) authorization and endorsement,” Corral said in the release from his Communications Office. “You cannot transfer (millions of dollars) from a state to phony companies through phony contracts to PRI without the president’s authorization.”
Pena Nieto is a member of PRI. He left office in 2018.