Mexico Allegedly Leaked Bidding Data to OHL, Video Alleges

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OHL Mexico SAB executives allegedly received information from the federal government for a highway project months before it was released to the public, according to the latest in a series of YouTube videos attacking the toll-road operator.

In the recordings, which purport to be of phone conversations between OHL Mexico officials, one executive says he received a compact disc with information about two projects that included details of how bidding would take place.

The same executive allegedly tells his secretary in a separate phone call to reimburse Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico’s communications and transportation minister, for his hotel stay because the federal official is a guest of the company. Ruiz Esparza said at an event in Mexico City Wednesday that the toll-road operator never paid for his vacations and that those suggestions are “totally false.”

When asked about the possibility of the ministry leaking information to some bidders, Ruiz Esparza said, “it would be illegal to give someone early information that would privilege them.” The ministry said later in an e-mailed statement it didn’t leak any disc with project information to the company and the minister didn’t stay at OHL Mexico’s hotel near Cancun.

Company Response

The toll-road operator said Wednesday that no payment was authorized to Ruiz Esparza and that the latest video is part of a smear campaign meant to confuse investors, authorities and the general public in statements to the nation’s stock exchange. The company has said the YouTube videos were illegally taped and maliciously edited and has opened investigations into the matter.

All of the recordings have been released by the same YouTube user, and no one has claimed responsibility.

Shares of OHL Mexico fell 1.4 percent to 20.13 pesos at close of market in Mexico City. The stock has fallen 35 percent since the start of May, the biggest loss on the benchmark IPC index over the period.

Mexico’s securities regulator and comptroller as well as a state government have started probes of OHL Mexico and its tollway concessions since recordings first emerged in May. The matter led to the resignation of one state official and at least one OHL Mexico executive and spurred Moody’s Investors Service to put the company’s Spanish parent, Obrascon Huarte Lain SA, on review for a credit-rating downgrade.

Earlier recordings purported to show executives discussing ways to inflate toll rates, pay off judges and offer to pay for a local official’s Christmas-week stay at a Caribbean beach hotel.

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