Mexico fines, bans company owned by son of president's ally

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico has fined a company owned by the son of an ally of the president for selling overpriced ventilators to the government and banned it from doing public sector business for two years, the Public Administration Ministry (SFP) said Monday.

In May, Mexicanos Contra la Corrupcion y la Impunidad (MCCI), an anti-corruption group, said an arm of Mexico’s social security institute (IMSS) bought the devices from Cyber Robotic Solutions, a firm owned by Leon Manuel Bartlett, son of Manuel Bartlett, who heads national electricity company CFE.

The sale took place as authorities battled the coronavirus pandemic. After an investigation, the SFP said in the official government gazette it had handed Cyber Robotic Solutions two fines totaling over 2 million pesos ($90,000).

It also issued two orders disqualifying Cyber Robotic Solutions from doing business with federal, state and municipal governments, for 24 months and 27 months respectively.

MCCI said in April the IMSS purchased 20 ventilators from the firm for nearly double the amount the government paid for some other ventilators around that time.

The younger Bartlett denied any wrongdoing.

But in a statement, the SFP said the price was “outside the market range” and rejected an argument that emergency conditions had dictated the terms of the deal.

“Not one of the 20 units delivered met with the technical specifications agreed,” it added. “The units delivered were old, used and in poor condition: 11 were broken and totally unusable as the IMSS has itself acknowledged.”

CFE chief Bartlett, a close ally of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was last year subject to an ethics probe relating to his wealth and potential conflicts of interest. The SFP-led investigation exonerated him of any wrongdoing.

Lopez Obrador has made battling graft his top priority.

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