OHL México and minister sued over Amozoc-Perote highway

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mexico's transport minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza and OHL México president Juan Osuna have been sued over alleged irregularities in the decision to extend the term of the Amozoc-Perote highway concession.

Paulo Díez, legal representative of applied technology company Infraiber, filed a lawsuit with the Mexican attorney general's office (PGR), alleging that the decision to extend the term of the concession for operating the Amozoc-Perote highway was done 'irregularly', according to local press reports.

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The lawsuit states that, in 2013, after a five-year delay in completing construction of the highway, OHL México asked the transport ministry for a payment of around 300mn pesos (US$16.1mn) for additional works that the company had carried out. According to Díez, the original concession title for the construction of the highway states that all additional works performed on the project would be done as public works and paid for by the government.

The lawsuit adds that, in an official request for information, Díez had access to an arbitration resolution document that included a ruling against OHL México. The document also included a statement in which the transport ministry explained that OHL's payment request was unfounded given that the company and its subsidiaries had failed to comply with the contract and committed malicious acts in order to obtain benefits.

Infraiber's lawyer is accusing Ruiz Esparza of having ignored the resolution and contravening the law by making the decision to extend the concession to operate the Amozoc-Perote highway for OHL México for another 30 years and raising toll prices on the highway by 6%, which according to Diez was not allowed in the original concession contract.

Díez argues that a different decision to extend OHL México's concession to operate the Perote bypass for 20 more years was also an arbitrary act on the part of the transport minister.

The concession for the construction of the Amozoc-Perote highway was originally granted to Autopistas Nacionales (GANA) in 2003. In 2005, OHL México bought a majority stake in GANA.

In June of this year, OHL México released a statement announcing that the term of the concession had been extended without revealing any further details. According to the lawsuit, the concession title for the Amozoc-Perote highway was modified so that OHL México will now be able to operate the highway until November 2063.

Infraiber and OHL México have been in a long-running dispute since the 2011 cancelation of the former's contract to install car crossing verification systems on 12 highways in Mexico state, two of which are managed by OHL. Infraiber blamed OHL for this, while the construction company maintains the state government was the one responsible for the decision.

OHL México later accused Infraiber of leaking audio and video recordings, which purport to capture OHL México executives arranging corrupt business deals with government officials, and filed a lawsuit against the tech firm. Since then, Infraiber has publicly accussed OHL México of corrupt business practices.