April 15, 2019 / 4:54 PM / 7 days ago

'Robin Hood' Mexican president says to return stolen wealth to the people

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday he will create a “Robin Hood” institute to return to the people the ill-gotten wealth seized from corrupt politicians and gangsters.

His administration is drawing up a bill to create an independent “Robin Hood” institute “against the corrupt” that would put confiscated goods such as real estate, jewellery and cars into the public’s hands, the president told reporters.

“Let’s quickly return everything to the people that’s been stolen,” he said at his regular morning news conference.

For example, the institute could assign seized homes to municipalities for schools, hospitals or elderly care centres, he said. Assets seized by the government tend to have been ransacked or require expensive upkeep, he noted.

He did not estimate the value of the assets, or offer details on how they would be given back to the people.

A 2017 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development noted that recent studies estimated that Mexico lost between 5 percent and 9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to corruption annually.

Since taking office in December, veteran leftist Lopez Obrador has rolled out a string of welfare programs for the poor and the elderly, cut salaries for top civil servants and says he is saving public money by eliminating corruption.

Lopez Obrador has shunned the often luxurious trappings of Mexico’s wealthy elites, choosing to fly coach and drive through the capital in a white Volkswagen Jetta.

Immediately upon taking office, he turned over the presidential palace to the public and put his predecessor’s official plane up for sale.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Sharay Angulo; Editing by Dave Graham and Jeffrey Benkoe

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