By MARK LORENZANA
The Mexican Food System (Segalmex), an agency created by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in 2018, allegedly entered into a contract with a ghost company in April 2020 and purchased 25,000 tons of sugar worth 465 million pesos, of which only 7,800 tons were delivered.
Servicios Integrales Carregin, the alleged ghost company, has already been reported to Mexico’s Attorney General (FGR).
According to an investigation by the nonprofit civil group Mexicans against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), in the Segalmex-Diconsa complaint against Carregin, the alleged purchase was made during the height of the covid-19 pandemic, and former Segalmex head Ignacio Ovalle Fernández had full knowledge of the transaction.
Ovalle Fernández was appointed to Segalmex by López Obrador, but was relieved of his position within two years after the agency was plagued with multiple accusations of corruption.
In 2018, López Obrador created Segalmex-Diconsa — a merger between two other government agencies, Liconsa and Diconsa — to replace the National Commission of Popular Supplies (Conasupo), which was dedicated to guaranteeing the regulation of prices in the basket of basic food items in Mexico, particularly the price of corn.
The Office of the Commercial Directorate of Diconsa, which was headed by Manuel Lozano Jiménez, purportedly ordered the sugar from Carregin. Complaints have already been filed against Lozano Jiménez, but not against Ovalle Fernández.
In the MCCI investigation, Lozano Jiménez purportedly signed an agreement with Carregin for 37 orders of sugar totaling 25,000 tons, which were to be delivered and stored in various warehouses in the country.
Three weeks after the agreement, however, Carregin asked Diconsa to cancel 36 of the 37 orders, citing logistical difficulties caused by the covid-19 pandemic, and promised to store the remaining 17,200 tons of undelivered sugar in a warehouse located in Paseo del Pedregal in Mexico City. Segalmex-Diconsa, without confirming the existence of the sugar supply, allegedly paid the total amount agreed upon.
Eight months into the sugar deal, in December of 2020, both Diconsa and Carregin agreed to terminate the contract. Despite Diconsa having paid in full, Carregin purportedly did not deliver the bulk of the sugar it had owed the government agency.
This prompted María Oceguera Valle, legal representative of Diconsa, to file a criminal complaint on Aug. 26, 2021, with the FGR against Carregin.
The FGR likewise requested arrest warrants for Lozano Jiménez, former Segalmex finance director René Gavira Segreste and Carlos Dávila Amerena, former legal director of Diconsa.
Daffne Pomar Colín, a housewife, and Jorge Saúl Romero Valencia — who lives in a modest house in the municipality of Ixtapaluca in the State of Mexico (EdoMéx), according to the MCCI investigation — have been listed as shareholders of Carregin.
The MCCI investigation said that despite the fact that Pomar Colín and Romero Valencia were apparently being used as front men, the FGR still ordered the arrest of the two.
Mexican correspondent Georgina Zerega, of the Madrid-based daily newspaper El País, wrote in an article published on June 3 of this year that “Segalmex granted 797 million pesos between 2019 and 2020 in direct awards to a network of six companies whose partners had participated in shell companies.”