By Kunle Adedoyin
A former female minister once in charge of Mexico’s Social Development and Rural Poverty Programs was charged with corruption Tuesday for the alleged theft of more than $300 million and arrested pending trial.
Rosario Robles, who served as Social Development and Agrarian Development Minister under former president Enrique Pena Nieto (2012-2018), was taken into custody at the end of a 12-hour court hearing and brought to a women’s prison in Mexico City.
Robles is accused of taking part in a corruption scheme known as the “Master Swindle,” in which officials allegedly skimmed nearly six billion pesos from the government’s coffers via fake contracts involving public universities and shell companies.
It is one of the first major graft cases under leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-corruption crusader who took office in December.
“Unfortunately, the judge has ordered two months of pre-trial detention. That is the amount of time we have to present new evidence in the investigation,” said Robles’ lawyer, Xavier Olea.
Robles, who was once considered close to Lopez Obrador, denies the charges and says she detected and reported the misappropriations. Her defence team says the case against her is “political persecution.”
Lopez Obrador denied he was behind Robles’s prosecution.
“This matter is being dealt with by the prosecutor, the attorney general’s office and the judge,” he told a press briefing.
“It’s not coming from us.”