Duarte: feeling some heat. Duarte: feeling some heat.

Former security chief key in Duarte case

Duarte ordered to stand trial after a hearing on Saturday

Any possibility that former Veracruz governor Javier Duarte might escape conviction on corruption charges further diminished Saturday after one of his old colleagues testified against him, a key factor in the judge’s decision to proceed to trial.

The testimony of the former chief of the Public Security Secretariat (SSP), Arturo Bermúdez Zurita, was instrumental in his ruling, Judge Gerardo Moreno García said.

Duarte returned to Mexico last week to face the allegations following his extradition by Guatemala. On Saturday, he was ordered to stand trial on organized crime and money laundering charges brought by federal authorities. He also faces state charges.

Chief witnesses Alfonso Ortega López and Juan José Janeiro Rodríguez, lawyers and former frontmen for the ex-governor have already testified against him, implicating his wife in his allegedly illegal activity as well.

Like Duarte, Bermúdez is also in preventative custody, having been accused of illicit enrichment during Duarte’s administration that concluded with the former governor’s resignation in October 2016, after which he fled the country.

In December 2016, the former SSP chief gave a sworn statement to the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) that in the middle of 2014, Duarte — through then-state treasurer Antonio Tarek Abdalá — ordered him to divert federal funds from the Secretariat of Public Security.

A case file on the investigation includes the details of a telephone conversation between the two.

“Tarek told him that on instructions of governor [Duarte], from that date on the Finance Secretariat was no longer going to receive federal funds that arrived in the state for security programs but rather the Security [Secretariat] had to receive them and later return them to the state Treasury, and he was going to order that some amounts would have to be paid to various suppliers.”

According to Bermúdez, Tarek assured him that the same “system” was in use at the Health, Education and Agriculture secretariats.

In the interview with authorities late last year, the ex-security chief said he refused to carry out the instruction and was willing to offer his resignation as a consequence.

Tarek reiterated to him that it was a direct instruction from governor Duarte, the case file shows.

Tarek is currently a federal Deputy for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and consequently has immunity against prosecution, known as the fuero, preventing any court orders for him to provide evidence in the case or to face charges himself.

Authorities in Veracruz are trying to get the fuero lifted but their efforts have so far been thwarted by federal elements in the PRI.

Bermúdez says that after he refused to comply with the order he was excluded from cabinet meetings so he requested a private audience with Duarte to tender his resignation.

“You’re not going, you arrived with me and you’ll go with me. Beware of the consequences of abandoning me,” was the response he received, Bermúdez revealed in his statement.

The ex-SSP boss also revealed that in 2013 Duarte had demanded that he grant 300 taxi licenses to his brother Cecil Duarte although in the end he only received 100.

Furthermore, Bermúdez stated that Duarte’s wife, Karime Macías Tubilla, headed cabinet meetings on several occasions and advised government members about communication with regard to public works and other government matters.

Ortega and Janeiro claimed last week that Macías was very involved in her husband’s schemes to embezzle state resources.

However, she is currently not under investigation and believed to be in Paris.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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