MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities on Wednesday seized five boxes filled with cash as part of an investigation into alleged embezzlement by a former governor of southern Tabasco state, in what could become the latest test for President Enrique Pena Nieto to act against corruption.
Tabasco state prosecutor Fernando Valenzuela said bundles of 500- and 1,000-peso bills were found in an office of Jose Saiz, who was finance secretary under former Gov. Andres Granier of Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI.
Investigators are still counting the money, but a witness told them the cache contains from 90 million to 100 million pesos, Valenzuela said. That would between $7 million and $8 million.
Current Gov. Arturo Nunez, of the opposition Democratic Revolution Party, has repeatedly accused his predecessor of having left a public debt of millions of dollars and of representing Mexico's corrupt, old-style politics.
Local media recently made public an audio in which Granier boasted about owning hundreds of suits and pairs of shoes and of only shopping at the best stores in Beverly Hills.
Granier later said he was boasting about things he doesn't have because he was drunk. He hasn't been charged with any crime.
The federal Attorney General's Office has also opened an investigation into the handling of public funds by Granier, Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told Radio Formula on Wednesday.
"We will investigate and get to the bottom of this," Osorio Chong said.
He denied Granier is getting preferential treatment for being a member of the PRI.
"The investigation is going at the speed it needs to go," he said. "There are things being made public by the media but that doesn't mean they are evidence."
The PRI governed Mexico for 71 years and was seen as a party that encouraged corruption and authoritarianism. It lost the presidency for the first time in 2000 but it returned to power on Dec. 1 with Pena Nieto, who has said that his party has changed and that he will not stand for illegality.
Politicians and union leaders have not been shy about showing their extravagant homes and brand name clothes and jewelry despite their low salaries, leading many to suspect they were funding their flamboyant taste with public funds.
One recent case was that of Elba Esther Gordillo, a former leader of the powerful teachers union who was arrested in February on charges of diverting millions of dollars of funds belonging to teachers.
"The Teacher," as she was known, was famous for wearing designer clothes and handbags. She built her political career with the PRI, but the party expelled her a few years ago after she supported an opposition presidential candidate.