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Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto settles in Spain with a golden visa

Enrique Peña Nieto during a tour of Europe in 2015.
Enrique Peña Nieto during a tour of Europe in 2015.Max Mumby/Indigo (Getty Images)

The former president of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto has settled in Spain. The former president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which governed the country between 2012 and 2018, requested an initial residence and work authorization that was granted in October 2020, according to sources familiar with the case. The permit that Peña Nieto has is known as golden visa either golden visa, a procedure that allows the regularization of large investors who allocate at least one million euros to the acquisition of Spanish assets, who have a business project or who buy real estate for at least 500,000 euros (10.5 million Mexican pesos). The formula, created in 2013 by the Government of Mariano Rajoy, has been for all these years the fastest and most privileged way for dozens of Russian, Chinese or Venezuelan businessmen to settle in Spain.

In 2020, the politician bought a 105-square-meter commercial premises with an interior terrace in a building in the prosperous Madrid neighborhood of Chamberí, according to the property registry. The calculation of the real estate portal idealista.com He attributes a value of more than 500,000 euros.

The premises, deeded on September 18, 2020 and for which there is no mortgage, has undergone a recent reform and is now a “luxury apartment”, according to one of the neighbors. The property remains empty, he assures, although on occasion people have gathered for dinner on the terrace and the Mexican accent has ended up sneaking through the windows of the rest of the neighbors. The former president has even participated in at least one neighborhood meeting, according to one of the owners, who has declined to give more details of the meeting.

Peña Nieto, however, does not live in the capital and today has as neighbors the actors Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem and some stars of the gossip press. He lives, as confirmed by two neighbors and a third source, in the exclusive Valdelagua urbanization, in the Madrid municipality of San Agustín de Guadalix, 40 kilometers north of Puerta del Sol.

His house, according to the property registry, is a chalet built on a 2,500-square-meter plot and consists of two floors and a basement, where the garage and a cellar are located. The rest is garden. A hedge of cypresses protects the privacy of the former PRI leader, who maintains a huge Spanish flag waving on the entrance esplanade. In the tree-lined urbanization, in which yellow Ferraris and the latest luxury cars are seen passing by, no one is allowed to enter without being authorized by the residents. That is part of its exclusivity, as well as the presence of private security that makes continuous rounds through the silent alleys that connect almost 300 chalets.

The property does not belong to Peña Nieto, but to a construction company that acquired it through a mortgage of 889,500 euros, according to the registry. The owner of this construction company is a businessman who also entered the computer consulting business and internationalized in markets such as Chile and Mexico. Despite repeated attempts to speak with him, the businessman has not contacted this newspaper.

Entrance to the Valdelagua urbanization in San Agustín de Guadalix (Madrid).
Entrance to the Valdelagua urbanization in San Agustín de Guadalix (Madrid). Santiago Burgos

Peña Nieto’s residence and work authorization expires in October of this year. After that period of two years of legal stay in Spain, the former president could apply for Spanish nationality or simply renew his current permit. In the case of renewing his papers, he would obtain a residence permit for five more years. EL PAÍS has contacted the law firm that has managed his file, a law firm specialized in international mobility, immigration law and acquisition of Spanish nationality, but the response of one of his lawyers has been: “I don’t know what you speak to me”. Two former aides to the former president have declined to comment. The former spokesman for his government alleges that he does not know how to contact him, while his former chief of staff has not responded to this newspaper’s request. EL PAÍS has not been able to confirm whether Peña Nieto has financial assets in Spain, in addition to the ownership of the Chamberí neighborhood.

The former president led an administration that sought to embody the renewal of the PRI, the formation that governed Mexico without interruption for 70 years, but left behind a management full of scandals: from the official version of the Ayotzinapa case and the irregularities in the investigation of the disappearance of 43 students to the purchase of a mansion in an exclusive neighborhood in Mexico City -formally owned by his then wife, the actress Angélica Rivera-, built by a company that contracted with his Executive.

His mandate, however, was marked above all by the corrupt plot of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. One of his strongmen, Emilio Lozoya, former director of the state oil company Pemex, was arrested in early 2020 in a luxury development on the outskirts of Malaga, extradited and imprisoned in Mexico for money laundering, criminal association and bribery. Lozoya’s initial strategy to get out of prison or obtain a sentence reduction consisted of providing evidence that would incriminate the leadership of the previous government, including the former president. The Prosecutor’s Office has resisted until today to reach an agreement.

Peña Nieto, in any case, chose to leave just as two other PRI presidents did in the last 30 years: Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) settled in Ireland shortly after finishing his term and Ernesto Zedillo ( 1994-2000) left to teach at Yale University in Connecticut. Information about his decision to leave Mexico began to circulate in early 2019, months after handing over the baton to his successor and political rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. However, the former president has never publicly acknowledged it and even denied it through Twitter, in February of that year. “It is absolutely false that I have bought or rented a property in Madrid.” In that message he asserted that he lived in Mexico with his family and that he had not contemplated moving “to Spain or to any other country.” He was not lying then, because he had not yet applied for his residency in Spain. He did a few months later.

In 2020, the topic returned to Mexican news after a report by the magazine Process, that already gave some keys to Peña Nieto’s new life in Madrid. The publication then mentioned the Valdelagua urbanization, but did not explain under what circumstances the president had managed to settle in Spain on a regular basis. The magazine also pointed out some of Peña Nieto’s habits, such as his love of golf at the most select clubs in the capital, something that EL PAÍS has also confirmed.

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