John M. Ackerman
International corruption scandals put local criminal justice and legal systems to the test. Even highly corrupt or ineffective national institutions are often forced to kick into gear when put under an international spotlight. In recent years, cases such as Odebrecht, The Panama Papers, and Swiss Leaks have led to numerous powerful politicians and corporate executives being swept up by the dragnet in countries like Peru, Brazil, Egypt, Ecuador, Panama, Uruguay, and the Dominican Republic.
But in Mexico, impunity reigns supreme. Not a single person has been indicted, and much less convicted, for wrongdoing for any of these high-profile scandals. And when, a few days ago, one brave prosecutor tried to dig into the use of Odebrecht funds to finance president Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2012 electoral campaign, the prosecutor was summarily dismissed.
In Mexico, less than ten percent of all crimes are even reported to the authorities, according to official statistics. Of these, only two-thirds, or six percent of the total, are investigated. In general, the impunity ratestands at 99 percent. And when powerful individuals are involved, the numbers get very close to 100 percent.
Whenever an international corruption or tax-evasion scandal breaks out, Mexico is normally at the top of the list. Swiss Leaks unveiled the existence of enormous fortunes stashed in Swiss banks by some of the most powerful Mexican politicians and oligarchs, including Carlos Hank Rhon, Luis Téllez, and Alfredo Elías Ayub. The Panama Papers also directly implicated a series of top bureaucrats and contractors linked to the Peña Nieto administration, including Emilio Lozoya, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, Alfonso de Angoitia, and Juan Armando Hinojosa. And top officials of Odebrecht, and its partner Braskem, have given testimony in Brazil that suggests they funneled at least $10 million to top members of Peña Nieto’s team, both during the 2012 presidential campaign and in the context of negotiating oil refining contracts once Peña Nieto took power...
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