November 22, 2017 / 3:41 AM / a month ago

Mexican leftist presidential candidate vows financial crime crackdown

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican leftist presidential frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pledged in his manifesto to clamp down on financial crime, and tighten money laundering, banking and tax regulations if elected next July.

Lopez Obrador, the 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City and a two-time presidential candidate, on Monday unveiled his 2018 policy platform, vowing to boost infrastructure spending while preserving economic stability.

In his 415-page manifesto, published late on Monday, the founder of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party said he would combat money laundering by tightening controls on the banking system, including tougher sanctions for public officials convicted of financial crimes, a new conflict-of-interest law and longer sentences for tax offenses.

“Banks and financial institutions aren’t victims, but rather those principally responsible for, and benefiting from, the total lack of control in money laundering,” the proposal said.

Lopez Obrador’s plan also aims to ensure transparency in sworn-wealth declarations and to block the right to confidential information for people under investigation for financial crimes.

AMLO, as he is known locally, has sought to deflect accusations that he would pursue Venezuela-style socialist policies if elected, vowing instead to clean up the country’s graft-stained politics.

Mexico’s government estimates that the drug trade, tax fraud and other crimes are worth at least 1.13 trillion pesos ($58.5 billion) a year in Mexico, with all of the funds susceptible to money laundering, according to a classified report seen by Reuters in October.

The manifesto also gave details on Lopez Obrador’s plan to scrap President Enrique Pena Nieto’s new $13 billion Mexico City airport project, which is currently under construction.

Lopez Obrador’s plan recognizes the need to ease traffic and delays at Mexico City’s existing airport, but proposes preserving it while expanding a nearby military site.

AMLO would add two runways and a terminal at the Saint Lucia International Airport in the State of Mexico. The expansion would cost 50 billion pesos ($2.66 billion) and take less than three years, resulting in five runways shared between Saint Lucia and the current airport, he said.

The document said this alternative would cost about one-third what will be spent on the new airport, which Lopez Obrador says would drain government coffers with maintenance costs.

Pena Nieto’s office said in a statement that cancelling the project would cause job losses and send a bad signal.

“The macroeconomic risk for Mexico would be enormous, as it would be sending the message that Mexico doesn’t respect contracts nor private investment,” the statement added.

Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Gabriel Stargardter and Richard Borsuk

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