Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has moved to Spain. The former leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who governed Mexico between 2012 and 2018, applied for a two-year residence and work permit which was granted to him in October 2020, according to sources familiar with the matter. The permit that Peña Nieto has is known as the golden visa, a procedure that grants legal documents to foreigners who spend at least 1 million euros to acquire Spanish assets, who have a business project or who buy in minus €500,000 of real estate (10.5 million Mexican pesos). This is the formula that dozens of Russian, Chinese and Venezuelan entrepreneurs have used over the years to settle in Spain.
In 2020, Peña Nieto bought commercial premises with an area of 105 square meters and an interior patio in a building in Madrid’s upscale neighborhood of Chamberí, according to the local land registry. The real estate site idealista.com estimates that this property is worth more than €500,000.
The deed was signed on September 18, 2020 and shows that there was no mortgage involved. The unit underwent a recent reform and is now a “luxury apartment”, according to one of the building’s residents. The property remains empty, this source said, although people have occasionally gathered to dine on the patio and diners have a Mexican accent. Mexico’s former president even attended at least one homeowners’ meeting, according to an apartment owner who declined to provide further details.
Peña Nieto, however, does not reside in the Spanish capital but about 40 kilometers to the north, in the municipality of San Agustín de Guadalix, in an exclusive development called Valdelagua where its neighbors include actors Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem as well as celebrities who feature regularly in gossip magazines, as stated by two residents and confirmed by a third source.
The habitual residence of Peña Nieto, according to the property register, is a detached house built on a plot of 2,500 square meters with two floors and a basement that houses the garage and a wine cellar. The rest of the property is occupied by a garden. A cypress hedge protects the privacy of the former Mexican leader, who hung a huge Spanish flag at the entrance. No one is admitted to this tree-lined estate dotted with yellow Ferraris and the latest luxury cars without the invitation of one of its residents. That’s part of what makes it so exclusive, along with the private security that makes continuous rounds of the quiet alleys that connect nearly 300 luxury homes.
This property does not belong to Peña Nieto, but to a construction company which acquired it with a mortgage of €889,500, according to the register. The owner of this construction company is an entrepreneur who has also ventured into IT consulting and gone global in markets like Chile and Mexico. Repeated attempts to reach him for comment went unanswered.
Peña Nieto’s residence and work permit expires in October this year. After this two-year period of legal stay in Spain, the former Mexican president could apply for Spanish nationality or simply renew his current permit. In the latter case, he would obtain a residence permit for an additional five years. EL PAÍS contacted the law firm that handled his application and which specializes in international mobility, foreigners’ rights and the acquisition of Spanish nationality, but the response from one of the partners was: “I don’t don’t know what you’re talking about. Two former aides to the former president declined to comment. The former spokesman for his administration said he did not know how to reach him, while his former chief of staff did not respond to this newspaper’s request for comment. EL PAÍS was unable to confirm whether Peña Nieto has other financial assets in Spain in addition to the Chamberí property.
Peña Nieto, who governed Mexico between 2012 and 2018, led an administration that sought to embody the revival of the PRI, the party that had ruled Mexico continuously for 70 years in the 20th century. But he left behind a trail of scandals: from the official version of the Ayotzinapa affair, involving irregularities in the investigation into the disappearance of 43 students, the purchase of a mansion in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood – formerly owned by his then wife, actress Angélica Rivera – built by a company that signed a contract with its manager.
But his administration has been marred above all by the corruption scandal involving the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. One of Peña’s trusted assistants. Emilio Lozoya, former director of the state oil company Pemex, was arrested in early 2020 in a luxury housing estate on the outskirts of Malaga in southern Spain, extradited to Mexico and imprisoned for money laundering, association of criminals and corruption. Lozoya’s initial strategy to get out of prison or get a reduced sentence was to provide evidence that would incriminate the leaders of the previous government, including the former president himself. To date, the prosecutor’s office has rejected a deal.
Leaving his country, Peña Nieto followed in the footsteps of other PRI Presidents who preceded him over the past 30 years: Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) moved to Ireland shortly after completing his term and Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) left to teach at Yale University in Connecticut. Reports of Peña Nieto’s decision to leave Mexico began circulating in early 2019, months after he handed over to his successor and political rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. However, the former president never acknowledged this publicly and even denied it on Twitter in February of the same year. “It is absolutely wrong that I bought or rented a property in Madrid.” In the post, he claimed he was living in Mexico with his family and had no plans to move “to Spain or any other country.” He wasn’t lying then, because he hadn’t applied for residency in Spain yet. He did it a few months later.
Ante las versions que circulan sobre mi país de residentncia, aclaro: es absolutamente falso que yo haya comprado o rentado una propiedad in Madrid. Mi familia y yo vivimos in Mexico. No tengo contemplado mudarme a España ni a ningún otro país.
— Enrique Pena Nieto (@EPN) February 18, 2019
In 2020, the subject again hit the headlines following the publication of an article by the magazine Process, which provided some clues about Peña Nieto’s new life in Madrid. The publication mentioned the Valdelagua estate, but did not explain under what circumstances the president managed to settle regularly in Spain. The magazine also highlighted some habits of Peña Nieto, such as his love of golf in the most select clubs in the capital, which EL PAÍS also confirmed.