The reporters José María Irujo and Joaquín Gil, members of the EL PAÍS investigation team, have been awarded this Thursday with the 2021 international journalism prize awarded by the Club de Periodistas de México AC, an association with more than 70 years of experience. The institution has awarded the two chroniclers for the coverage they have maintained over the last year, in which they have uncovered the secret accounts of numerous current politicians and the old guard of the PRI, the party that ruled the country for more than 70 years. , in the Banca Privada d’Andorra, which was intervened by the police in 2015 for laundering money from allegedly criminal groups.
Among the Mexican public figures investigated by Irujo and Gil who hid their fortunes in the small European country, a tax haven, are names like Juan Ramón Collado, popularly known as ‘the lawyer of power’, who was a lawyer, among others, of the former president Enrique Peña Nieto; Elba Esther Gordillo, former president of the largest union in Mexico; the PRI senator Sylvana Beltrones, daughter of the former president of the PRI Manlio Fabio Beltrones or the current governor of the State of Mexico, Alfredo del Mazo, from the same party. “It has been a team effort, many trips to Andorra, consulting a lot of documentation, touching many sources and trying to get the most sacred secrets of very important personalities of Mexican politics, almost all of the PRI”, synthesizes by phone from Madrid Irujo, head of the research team.
Journalists began diving through documents and folders four years ago. “We had the impression that relevant secrets of very important politicians from all over America were hidden in Andorra, from [el caso] Odebrecht, members of the Mexican drug cartels, the network that looted Petróleos de Venezuela, the PRI… we have not been looking for a specific person, ”says Irujo. “The truth is that Andorra has been a vein, and that we focus exclusively on politicians, not businessmen, who are also very important Mexicans,” added Gil, a journalist for EL PAÍS since 2011, by telephone. several international investigations, among them, the ‘Pandora Papers’, uncovered this October, and in which Irujo also participated.
“It is a very slow job, which must be very meticulous, because at the slightest mistake you can have a legal problem, and you are also gambling with people’s reputations” continues Gil. “If you publish that the daughter [Beltrones] One of the most important Mexican politicians of the last time has billions of euros in Andorra, you have to have absolutely all the documents that prove it, ”says the reporter. In the course of the investigation, Irujo resumed, they discovered that during the Peña Nieto administration, the former Prosecutor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, had developed preliminary reports on the cases that were archived: “When we discovered this, we published it and got that several cases were reopened, such as that of Juan Ramón Collado ”.
Both reporters are now continuing their work, based on the documents seized by the police in the Banca Privada d’Andorra, the reports of the agents and clues from different sources. Mainly, with the line that they opened on Peña Nieto’s ex-lawyer and the investigations derived from the case, “which affect Mexico and other parts of Latin America,” Gil assures. Both are grateful for the award, which does not provide financial compensation, although due to work demands, they have not been able to attend the award ceremony this Thursday in Mexico City. The award has been collected in his name by Sonia Corona, editor-in-chief of EL PAÍS in Mexico. Among those awarded by the Club of Journalists of Mexico were also journalists Julio Hernández López, José Carreño Figueras, as well as teams of reporters from Univisión, Foro TV and Telesur. “For us this story is a beautiful example of the service that journalism can give to citizens. Now the justice in Mexico should investigate the origin of these fortunes “, concludes Irujo.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.