Bernardo Quezada Salas — the Mexican congressman whose family spent $8.2 million on Miami condos between 2004 and 2008 — spoke publicly about the luxury homes for the first time Tuesday, refusing to say whether he owned the units but offering to submit to an investigation.
“All the business activities that I have undertaken for years, including my participation in the corporation that’s been mentioned, have been with legal resources through the banking system and in strict accordance with domestic and international law,” Quezada Salas said at a brief news conference in Mexico City, according to the website of TV Azteca, a Mexican network.
The revelation that Quezada Salas and his close relatives used Florida companies to buy 13 luxury condos in Brickell, Miami Beach and Sunny Isles Beach — including 11 at the former Espirito Santo Plaza on a single day in 2005 — made national news in Mexico. The Miami Herald broke the story over the weekend.
No mortgages were recorded in Miami-Dade public records, meaning the deals may have been cash.
The congressman said he would be willing to give up parliamentary immunity from prosecution while an investigation is under way. Sitting legislators enjoy immunity.
I have acted with honor and in strict accordance to law.
Bernardo Quezada Salas
“In all the positions in which I’ve had the privilege to serve, I have acted with honor and in strict accordance to law,” Quezada Salas said, according to the sinembargo.mx website. He was flanked by the leaders of his party, the New Alliance.
One New Alliance official, Luis Alfredo Valles, said he would personally go to the federal attorney general’s office to demand “an exhaustive investigation” to clear up the matter, which has brought scrutiny to the party.
No questions were taken at the news conference.
On Monday, the leader of Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies called for an investigation.
Quezada Salas served for many years in important posts with Mexico’s teachers’ union. The union has a long-standing reputation for corruption. Its former chief, Elba Esther Gordillo, has been charged with embezzling as much as $200 million. She allegedly used the money to pay for mansions in San Diego, shopping trips at luxury department stores and extensive plastic surgery.
Quezada Salas has never been implicated in wrongdoing at the union.
$200 millionAmount allegedly embezzled by Elba Esther Gordillo, the ousted leader of Mexico’s teachers’ union
The spotlight on Quezada Salas has also focused attention on his family’s business dealings. His father-in-law, Hector Peredo, and his wife, Jessica Peredo Rincón, own and operate Etesa, a retail company that was bailed out with federal funds in 2013 after 300,000 teachers ran up excessive debt by buying products like appliances and motorcycles on credit with high interest rates, the Reforma newspaper reported Monday.
The company had reached an agreement with the National Education Workers’ Union, or SNTE, to allow direct deduction from teachers’ paychecks for the purchases. Interest rates averaged 60 percent a year but in some cases soared as high as 188 percent, Reforma said.
The quasi-state National Savings and Financial Services Bank, or Bansefi, stepped in to rescue the teachers and pay off much of their debt, Reforma said.
Peredo Rincón and her brother and sister-in-law were also listed as managers of the Florida companies used to buy the condos.
Quezada Salas has not returned phone calls from the Miami Herald.