(Adds statement from Baxter International)
MEXICO CITY, May 20 (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday ordered an investigation into allegations the former government irregularly awarded lucrative contracts to a firm allegedly tied to the family of his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto.
Between 2013 and 2018 Pena Nieto’s government awarded $640 million in contracts to Plasti-Esteril, a firm founded by his family in 1991, and medical supply company Baxter International Inc, according to Mexican newspaper El Universal.
Baxter International, the owner of Plasti-Esteril, said the company was set up by the Pena family in 1991 but that the family sold all its shares to various private investors the following year. “This family completely stopped having any type of shareholding in Plasti-Esteril since 1992,” Baxter said in a statement, noting that it took over full ownership of the company in 1999.
“We have to investigate if President Pena Nieto is involved and see how long the company has been operating, what contracts it received ... if they were awarded directly, through tenders,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily press conference.
Pena Nieto has in the past rejected accusations of wrongdoing during his time in office. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lopez Obrador, who took office in December 2018, has made fighting corruption one of his administration’s priorities. But he has said his government will not go after former presidents unless Mexicans demand it.
“We come from a regime defined by corruption and it takes some time to clean up,” said Lopez Obrador. (Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Lisa Shumaker)
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