Ex-governor Borge, left, at a hearing last week in Mexico City. Ex-governor Borge, left, at a hearing last week in Mexico City.

Borge ‘paid debt’ by selling state land

Witness testified that the ex-governor needed money urgently to pay off debt

State-owned land in Quintana Roo was offered for sale at bargain prices under the pretext that former governor Roberto Borge urgently needed the money to pay off debts, testimonies have revealed.

The federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) presented the evidence at a preliminary hearing in a federal court last week, where Borge appeared just hours after he arrived in Mexico following extradition from Panama.

At the same hearing, the judge ordered Borge to stand trial to face corruption charges and remanded the ex-governor in custody.

Borge, who was in office from 2011 to 2016, is accused of the use of funds derived from illegal sources, namely selling public land to family and friends.

One of the witness statements presented in court was made by Carlos Antonio Mimenza Novelo.

Mimenza told the PGR that in November 2015, the treasurer of Tulum, Óscar Conde, offered to sell him land belonging to the state at a heavily discounted price.

Mimenza declared that the official explained that the price was so low because the governor was looking to pay off his debts. Conde said he decided not to invest in the land himself because he didn’t have enough money to do so.

The witness also said that he was aware that the former governor had laundered money acquired through the sale of state land through the ABC Hospital.

Another witness, whose testimony was also presented in court, told the PGR that he had known Borge since childhood.

The statement given by Romeo Villanueva Polanco — a neighbor of the Borge family in Cozumel — said that the shell company Caracol 65 was the former governor’s first business.

After he finished business administration studies in Monterrey, Borge began collaborating with Edgar Manuel Méndez Montoya, the statement said.

The PGR identified Méndez as a prestanombre, or front man, for Borge. He appeared as a shareholder in several shell companies that acquired six of the 22 parcels of land that the PGR alleges that Borge sold illegally.

Another alleged Borge collaborator has sought an amparo, or injunction, to demand that the PGR respond to his requests for information. The PGR has indicated that businessman Santiago Samuel Jiménez Moreno acquired two of the 22 properties in question. An injunction hearing will be held in Mexico City on January 30.

Jiménez allegedly purchased one of the properties in question for just over 8.6 million pesos (US $435,000) when its real value was about 27.4 million pesos (US $1.4 million) and another for 1.8 million pesos when its true market value was about 7.7 million pesos.

At least 20 former collaborators, businessmen and relatives of the ex-governor are under investigation in relation to Borge’s suspected illegal activities.

They include several former state officials, judges who continue to serve in state courts and Borge’s mother, who allegedly acquired an extensive parcel of seafront land on the island of Cozumel for a bargain price.

In total, the ex-governor is accused of embezzling more than 900 million pesos (US $46.6 million) through the illegal sale of state land.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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