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Mexico probe links border governor to luxury properties

March 19, 2021 - 8:36 PM

MEXICO CITY - Mexico’s agency for curbing money laundering said Friday the governor of the northern border state of Tamaulipas owns a large number of luxury properties that it says don't match the income from his government jobs over the last 20 years.

The Financial Intelligence Unit said in a report to Congress that Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca earned about $2 million in wages and $1 million in other income since 2000, but acquired properties worth many times that. It also mentioned properties owned by the governor or his relatives in Texas.

The agency also said front companies used by the Sinaloa drug cartel had passed money through the same company that assisted in purchasing one of Garcia Cabeza de Vaca’s luxury apartments. But the agency did not say it has any direct evidence of links between the governor and the cartel.

In a video, the governor said the agency used “data and speculations that are notoriously false” in drawing up its report. “None of the homes that were shown in the report belong to me,” he said.

Garcia Cabeza de Vaca also said, “I have no links to organized crime.”

In February, the Attorney General’s Office filed a request to Congress to remove the governor’s immunity from prosecution, equivalent to a kind of impeachment proceeding. The office accuses Garcia Cabeza De Vaca of organized crime, money laundering and tax evasion.

He has denied any wrongdoing and says the accusations are politically motivated.

“All of this is a political attack,” said the governor, who belongs to the conservative opposition National Action Party.

The report also mentioned presumed irregularities in government contracts during Cabeza de Vaca's administration, and possible benefits to him or his family members.

Legislators will decide whether the accusations justify putting the governor on trial.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said when the accusations surfaced in February that “we do not persecute anyone.”

But Garcia Cabeza de Vaca speculated his brushes with the federal government had angered López Obrador’s administration. He is among the National Action Party governors who have staked out opposition policies on the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.

He noted that his Gulf coast state is a leading site of wind farms, an energy source that López Obrador has proposed reducing in favour of fossil fuels.

“They must be very upset over the way we publicly exposed them,” the governor said, referring to an incident in December when the federal power utility — a pet agency of the president — acknowledged it had falsified a document in an effort to excuse a widespread blackout that month.

The Federal Electricity Commission denied the Dec. 28 outage was the result of incompetence. Instead, it said, a brush fire in Tamaulipas had caused a kind of short-circuit that led to a two-hour blackout that affected one-fourth of the country’s customers.

The utility published a supposed report of a brush fire in an area beneath power pylons that it claimed caused the blackout. But Tamaulipas officials maintained that the document, purportedly issued by a state civil defence office, was forged. The utility at first denied that, but later admitted the report was false.

Garcia Cabeza De Vaca has governed Tamaulipas, just across the border from Texas, since 2016. Organized crime groups have long had deep roots in the state and numerous politicians have been implicated in dealings with them.

Former Gov. Tomás Yarrington of the Institutional Revolutionary Party was extradited to the U.S. from Italy in 2018 to face drug trafficking charges. U.S. officials also have tried to extradite the governor who succeeded Yarrington in 2005, Eugenio Hernández, to face money laundering charges.

The leading candidate to follow Hernández in 2011, Rodolfo Torre Cantú, was assassinated while campaigning for office.

News from © The Associated Press, 2021
The Associated Press

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