Sunday, June 23, 2024

Arrest warrant issued for Tamaulipas governor

The federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has obtained a warrant for the arrest of Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca on organized crime and money laundering charges.

Almost three months after it came to light that the federal government was seeking to prosecute García for ties to organized crime, illicit enrichment and tax fraud, a judge has issued a warrant for the arrest of the National Action Party governor, who has been in office in the northern border state since 2016.

The lower house of federal Congress last month approved the FGR’s request to strip the governor of his immunity from prosecution, but the Tamaulipas Congress refused to ratify the decision.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of García maintaining his immunity, known as the fuero, but President López Obrador claimed this week that its decision was “ambiguous” and that the governor could face justice.

“The opinion of the interior minister [Olga Sánchez Cordero, a former Supreme Court judge] is that there is no fuero; the ruling of the court is not clear in this case …” he said Tuesday.

The federal judge who issued the arrest warrant appears to share that view. The Associated Press reported that it appears that García is in a situation in which he only retains his immunity if he remains within the borders of Tamaulipas.

On the request of the FGR, the National Immigration Institute on Wednesday night issued an alert aimed at preventing the governor from leaving the country.

In a statement posted to social media, García said the warrant for his arrest violated his right to the presumption of innocence and due process. He also asserted that the Tamaulipas Congress and the Supreme Court have determined that his protection from prosecution remains “current” and “untouchable.”

“… They’re violating the decision of a sovereign Congress and, even worse, they’re ignoring a legal resolution of the country’s highest court,” the governor said.

“The political motives are clear,” García said, asserting that the federal government is using the justice system to “harass and intimidate” its opponents and people who are critical of the government and the ruling party, “especially when the electoral preference of the citizens is in clear decline.”

“It’s not a coincidence that the existence of the arrest warrant was first disseminated by members of the government party [Morena]. This only means that the decision to proceed against me was taken in the National Palace,” the governor wrote.

Santiago Nieto, head of the federal Financial Intelligence Unit of Mexico
Santiago Nieto, head of the federal Financial Intelligence Unit, says his office has frozen the financial accounts of 12 people and 25 legal entities associated with García. File photo

The National Palace is the seat of executive power and also the residence of López Obrador and his family.

García said he would defend himself against the “false accusations” he faces as he has done since the beginning of “this political and media attack.”

The governor claimed that he has been denied access to the federal file against him and charged that the country’s laws have been buried on the “whim” of the president.

“… The free and sovereign people of Tamaulipas brought me here. I will defend myself to the limits of my strength. … This country is not a nation of one man. Mexico belongs to all of us,”  García concluded.

In addition to having an arrest warrant issued against him, the governor on Wednesday also had his bank accounts frozen. The head of the federal government’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF), which worked with the FGR on investigating the governor’s allegedly illicit activities, announced on Twitter that he had ordered the freezing of accounts of the “network of Francisco G for alleged operations with resources of illicit origin.”

UIF director Santiago Nieto said the order applied to the accounts of 12 people and 25 legal entities. The UIF has reportedly blocked the accounts of the governor and those of his close family members, including his brothers, mother and wife.

“Zero tolerance of corruption and impunity, especially of those who believed they were untouchable,” Nieto wrote. “We will continue the investigations to determine if the network of Francisco G or of the Tamaulipas government illegally financed electoral campaigns. If that’s the case, we’ll present the corresponding complaints.”

According to an FGR document sent to the federal Congress to support its request for the governor’s desafuero, as the immunity stripping process is known, García, a former federal lawmaker and mayor of Reynosa, has used his power and influence as governor to amass a multimillion-dollar fortune.

The document said the governor designed a money laundering scheme that operated from within his government in which public money was diverted for the benefit of family members and other associates between 2016 and 2019. He allegedly used front companies in the scheme and purchased properties with inexplicable riches far greater than the wealth afforded to him from his governor’s salary.

The FGR application for desafuero included an anonymous email sent to federal authorities claiming that García has 951 million pesos (US $47.8 million) of hidden assets in south Texas, which borders Tamaulipas, and that the García Cabeza de Vaca family owns 30 properties there, including company premises, restaurants, art galleries, homes and ranches.

Testimony included in the application asserts that García has links to the Gulf Cartel dating back to 2004. Organized crime has a strong presence in Tamaulipas, and former state governors there, including Tomás Yarrington — currently imprisoned in the United States awaiting trial on drug trafficking and laundering charges — have fallen afoul of the law.

García is also under investigation in the United States, meaning that fleeing to that country would appear to be an unviable option to escape prosecution. A Tamaulipas government source told the newspaper El País that the governor remains in the northern state.

The warrant for García’s arrest comes just over two weeks before municipal, state and federal elections are held on June 6. The Tamaulipas governor’s term is not scheduled to end until 2022.

Source: El País (sp), Reforma (sp) 

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