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News Article

More Mayan Train Contractor Controversy

By Pedro Alcalá | Tue, 05/05/2020 - 15:57

Pajaro Político has again released a report scrutinizing the complex record of yet another Mayan Train contractor. Last week, the publication reported on contractors that are to build the train’s first segment. This week, it is the turn of contractors building the second segment. Carlos Slim’s CICSA won the contract to build the Mayan Train’s second segment in consortium with FCC Construcción. According to Pajaro Político, the latter was accused last October of corruption charges.

FCC Construcción is an infrastructure and services corporate group based in Barcelona, Spain, established in 1992 after the merger of two Spanish public works companies. Through this merger, these companies coalesced into one of the largest and most profitable infrastructure and public services corporations in Europe. Apart from ambitious infrastructure projects, their lines of business include management and maintenance of public systems, cement production, urbanistic equipment, renewable energy generation, water management and environmental services. It was these last two lines of business that attracted the attention of Bill Gates, who in 2013 became a shareholder of 5.7 percent of the company at a price of a little less than US$122.47 million, which was described at the time as an investment in sustainability. According to a report from ABC, this participation was later sold in 2016 and represented a loss of US$59.62 million for Gates. George Soros also purchased a 3 percent stake in 2013. It was in 2014 that the company’s contemporary history was defined after Slim became its majority shareholder with a 61.1 percent participation. 

The only entity with a similar stake in the company is the Spanish aristocratic Koplowitz family, with a 20 percent participation. This makes the consortium between CICSA and FCC Construcción one that is almost entirely within Slim’s ownership and control, existing in a sense as an asset for Grupo Carso. The company’s experience with railway projects is extensive, having participated in prominent projects of this kind, such as the Riyadh subway system that began construction in 2013.

The accusation of corruption against FCC Construcción was filed on October 30 of last year by judge Ismael Moreno of Spain. The accusation describes a consortium between FCC Construcción and the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht formed in 2010, which was awarded a contract for the construction of subway lines in Panama City. When the case against Odebrecht came to public light in 2017, district attorneys from Spain began investigating links between Odebrecht and any Spanish company. Among other cases, they arrived at the alleged findings contained in this accusation: a bribery scheme directed at Panama’s government and executed through inflated invoices for the project’s steel supply, along with artificial invoices for supposed peripheral services and installations. FCC Construcción had already attempted to get in front of these accusations back in May and June of last year when it presented its own corruption charges against top leaders within the company. However, in judge Moreno’s opinion, these efforts were not enough to exonerate the company from these accusations given that anti-corruption measures could have been enacted and implemented much earlier in the case’s timeline to prevent the ultimate outcomes. 

CICSA and Grupo Carso have already issued a response directly to Animal Político. In it, they correctly point out that the contracts mentioned in the accusation are previous to any involvement from Grupo Carso in the company. Furthermore, they make clear that the administrative changes in FCC Construcción that took place as a result of Grupo Carso’s takeover featured strict anti-corruption measures that included a policy of full cooperation with Spain’s legal authorities to finalize any process derived from this or any other accusation. FONATUR has not issued a statement on the matter although last Thursday it did issue a stern response to the accusations made against the contractors for the Mayan Train’s first segment. This response was specifically directed at Código Magenta journalist Ramón Alberto Garza who explored those accusations in his April 27 column.  

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Animal Político, ABC, FONATUR, Código Magenta
Photo by:   Animal Político
Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Senior Journalist & Industry Analyst