Governor Bonilla said the audit findings are 'the tip of the iceberg.' Governor Bonilla said the audit findings are 'the tip of the iceberg.'

Baja businesses investigated for water theft, illegal sewage discharges

Audit finds 400 businesses have cost the treasury 1.15 billion pesos

Government officials are investigating transnational and local companies for the theft of water in Baja California. 

Those under scrutiny include Coca-Cola, Samsung and Hyundai, as well as the Fimbres chain of convenience stores and luxury apartment builder Guakil. In total, 400 companies are under investigation for water theft and illegal sewage dumping causing losses of 1.15 billion pesos, over US $50 million.

An audit conducted by the state government revealed that the companies defrauded the State Public Services Commission by consuming industrial quantities of water at household rates, installing illegal water taps and discharging sewage in defiance of regulations. 

So far, Governor Jaime Bonilla reports, the state has recovered some 330 million pesos, about US $14.4 million, from companies that negotiated with the government and agreed to pay back the money owed. Those who refused will be charged with theft from the nation, he warned, and reported to tax authorities.

The Morena party governor accused the offending companies to have been in collusion with the previous administration, which was under the control of the National Action Party (PAN), and that politicians have used the water utility to fund their electoral campaigns.

Making the list of alleged offenders are businesses owned by various political figures from opposition parties, including former Tijuana mayor Jorge Hank Rhon of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), former PAN governors Eugenio Elorduy Walther and Francisco Vega and others. 

They join businesses such as Pemex in Playas de Rosarito, movie theater chain Cinépolis, the Calimax supermarket chain, the Las Rocas de Rosarito hotel and the regional offices of the Pacific Airport Group which manages the Tijuana International Airport. 

Some water thefts go back 27 years, the government says. 

Even a church was found to be hooked up illegally to a sewer line. 

Bonilla says he will provide weekly reports each Wednesday on the progress of the investigation, which he calls the “tip of the iceberg.”

Source: Jornada (sp)

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