Credit Said Hernandez/Revistatucan.com
In the fall of 2013, one of Mexico’s top housing officials posted an item on Twitter about an advertising campaign promoting mortgages for low-income Mexicans. The campaign’s message was simple: “The most important thing in life is in your house.”
It carried the tag line, “Homes with value.”
The official, Alejandro Murat Hinojosa, knows something about homes with value, especially across the border.
Credit Jorge Luis Plata/European Pressphoto Agency
Over the years, he and members of his immediate family — starting with his father, José Murat Casab, a former governor of Oaxaca — have bought at least six properties in the United States, including two condominiums near a ski resort in Utah, another at the beach in South Texas and at least one in Manhattan, according to records and interviews. In New York, José Murat’s children have also lived for periods of time in one of the more modest condos at the luxurious Time Warner Center overlooking Central Park.
Ownership of the homes was often obscured through variations on family names listed on deeds or through shell companies, according to records examined by The New York Times. In fact, on the day the younger Mr. Murat tweeted about the housing program, public filings in Florida recorded the transfer of a $750,000 Boca Raton condo that had been purchased in his wife’s name to an entity called IMRO 2013 Trust.
The Murats’ real estate holdings stand in contrast to the Everyman image that José Murat, renowned for his political might and booming personality, worked to project as governor.
“I arrived to the state government with my wife, Lupita, and my four children,” he said a year before his term ended in 2004. “And I’m leaving as I arrived, with the same trousers, with the same shoes, with the same shirts and the same car.”
The Murat properties, which emerged during a Times investigation into the people behind shell companies that own condominiums at the Time Warner Center, have not been the subject of any official inquiry and there is no evidence of any wrongdoing behind the purchases. But the private assets of Mexico’s public officials have come under intense focus recently with a fresh round of revelations and protests centered on the country’s endemic corruption.
Last fall, a scandal erupted over reports that a government contractor had built a multimillion-dollar home for the wife of Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto. While Mr. Peña Nieto’s wife, Angélica Rivera, said she was paying for it with money she earned as a soap opera star, she also revealed she owned a condo in Florida. Around the same time, Mr. Peña Nieto disclosed his own $3.3 million in real estate, jewelry, art and other investments. Last week, he said a new federal comptroller would examine purchases by him and his wife of homes in Mexico.
And in December, an official at Infonavit, the housing agency run by Alejandro Murat, resigned after a photo of his son with a Porsche was posted on social media, setting off a furor and prompting federal inquiries. The official said the posting was a joke and the car did not belong to his family.
These revelations added to the already widespread anger over accusations that corrupt police officers were involved in the abduction and presumed murder last year of 43 college students by a drug cartel. As demonstrations spread, Mr. Peña Nieto was reeling. His Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, had ruled the country for seven decades until 2000, and he had pledged to erase its legacy of corruption when he took office more than two years ago.
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