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javier duarte Duarte flashes an angry look during a court appearance.

Campeche land deals generated fat profit

Ex-governor's real estate transactions were his most lucrative deals

Little by little, the details of the allegations of illicit enrichment against former Veracruz governor Javier Duarte, currently awaiting trial, are coming to light.

According to the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) investigative file, prestanombres (front men) for the ex-governor purchased 21 parcels of ejido land in Campeche in 2011.

Some of the lots were sold a year later at highly inflated prices to shell companies created by the same front men.

Described by officials as his most lucrative deal, it was carried out with state funds, the file reveals.

The PGR used the questionable transactions as the starting point for its investigation into the alleged embezzlement and misuse of public funds during Duarte’s administration because, it claims, he and his accomplices used the profits to “give an appearance of legality” to the rest of the deals they would make during his six-year term, the file says.

In August 2011, Alfonso Ortega López, a lawyer and one of the front men, learned about the land in Campeche and advised his boss that buying them was “a good deal . . . with unlimited potential.”

In the criminal network that the PGR alleges was created and led by Duarte, one of Ortega’s duties was to “look for opportunities to invest money,” the file states.

“Once he [Duarte] analyzed the details of this deal, he ordered Ortega López to proceed with the purchase of the 21 parcels.”

In accordance with local agricultural norms, the land should have only been available to community landowners, or ejidatorios.  

Consequently, in order to buy the lots, Duarte’s accomplices had to forge documents, bribe community leaders and even threaten local campesinos (farmers) who opposed the purchase.

As directed by Duarte, all 21 parcels of land were purchased in the names of front men.

Nine went to Moises Mansur Cysneiros, five to Rafael Rosas Bacardo, four to Alfonso Ortega López and three to Juan José Janeiro Rodríguez.

Two of them, Ortega López and Janeiro Rodríguez, have already testified against their former boss and also implicated his wife in the alleged embezzlement.

Statements from those involved in the transaction indicate that approximately 20 million pesos (US $ 1.1 million at today’s exchange rate) were paid for the land.

However, according to the PGR, nine of the parcels were subsequently sold for 497 million pesos (US $28 million) to ghost companies, generating a fat profit.

Ortega López sold his lots for 244 million pesos and Mansur sold five of his 9 parcels for 253 million pesos.

At a preliminary hearing on Saturday, at which a judge ruled that Duarte’s case would proceed to trial, Israel Lira, the head of the federal agency responsible for investigating organized crime, stressed the significance of the markup.

“It was a markup beyond all proportion. There is no business that can generate this profitability in a year.”

He also argued that the two other front men did not go through with the sale of their lots because they became aware that federal authorities had already seized bank accounts and properties of other accomplices of Duarte.

Guatemalan authorities extradited Duarte back to Mexico last week and he is expected to stand trial on corruption charges later this year.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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