Friday, June 14, 2024

Former CDMX borough mayor arrested in Tamaulipas

Former Mexico City borough mayor Christian Von Roehrich was arrested in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, on Thursday. 

Von Roehrich served as mayor of the Benito Juárez borough from 2015–2018, when authorities say he led a real estate corruption network involving irregular contracts, bribes and payments to shell companies.

City Towers Green apartment complex in Mexico City
City Towers Green, one of several buildings associated with the case against Von Roehrich. (City Towers)

Von Roehrich was arrested after he was deported by U.S. authorities from McAllen, Texas, for trying to illegally cross the Mexico-United States border.

The former borough mayor — and, more recently, a National Action Party (PAN) deputy in the Mexico City Congress — was declared a fugitive in December when Mexico’s federal prosecutor requested a warrant for his arrest.  

Real estate corruption in the Benito Juárez borough was brought into the spotlight in August 2021, when a washing machine exploded in a house belonging to the borough mayor’s office. This led to an investigation of the building’s documentation and a series of inquiries regarding other similar irregularities related to additional buildings in the borough. 

Von Roehrich and other public officials arrested in connection with the real estate cartel —including the borough’s former director of Urban Works and Development, Nicias Aridjis, and former director of legal and government affairs, Luis Vizcaíno — issued more than 1,000 construction permits for works that did not comply with regulations, the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office (FGJ) said. 

Former CDMX borough mayor Christian Von Roehrich being transferred to prison in Mexico City
Von Roehrich, who was arrested after being deported into Reynosa by U.S. border authorities, was brought to the Reclusorio Norte prison in Mexico City on Friday morning. (Galo Cañas Rodríguez/Cuartoscuro)

As a result, multiple buildings in Benito Juárez were constructed with extra levels typically not permitted, which caused structural problems and challenges in providing services such as drinking water, authorities said.

One of the buildings cited in the case collapsed during the September 19, 2017, earthquake, killing two women. 

Ulises Lara, spokesperson for the FGJ, said in December that the Benito Juárez borough mayor’s office also distributed about 207 million pesos to shell companies following the earthquake. The funds were distributed through two contracts for demolition work and a third for the maintenance of public buildings impacted by the natural disaster. 

On Tuesday, Lara released new information regarding the modus operandi of the real estate cartel, as revealed by a businessman associated with the luxury apartment complex company City Towers, which owns buildings in multiple Mexico City boroughs. City Towers’ “Green” apartment complex is located in the Benito Juárez borough. 

Lara explained that the Benito Juárez officials involved collected bribes to guarantee that “things flowed correctly” between the project and the mayor’s office. Von Roehrich allegedly requested ownership of two apartments to guarantee the building got the proper permits. 

PAN officials insisted that the former mayor’s arrest is a case of political persecution. 

“In Mexico City, the application of justice is biased and based on political criteria. We reiterate that we are facing a case of political persecution by the State,” the party said in a statement. 

Von Roehrich was transferred to the Reclusorio Norte prison in Mexico City on Friday morning. 

With reports from El País, Reforma, sdpnoticias and The Washington Post

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