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Elba Esther Gordillo, former head of SNTE teachers' union Former SNTE teachers' union head Elba Esther Gordillo was arrested in 2013 for embezzlement, tax fraud and money laundering but cleared in 2018.

Once powerful teachers’ union boss tried to hide US $6mn in European bank

'La Maestra' told the Andorran bank she inherited the money from her mother, a rural teacher

A former teachers’ union boss who was absolved of corruption charges in 2018 tried to hide US $6 million in a bank in Andorra in 2012, according to the newspaper El País.

The Spanish newspaper published an investigation on Tuesday that said Elba Esther Gordillo, president of the SNTE teachers union between 1989 and 2013 and secretary-general of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) from 2002 to 2005, attempted to deposit the funds in the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) in April 2012.

Gordillo, a once highly powerful and influential figure in Mexican politics who is widely seen as corrupt despite being absolved of embezzlement and organized crime charges in August 2018, reportedly told BPA that the money was an inheritance from her mother, a teacher in rural indigenous communities in Chiapas who passed away in 2009.

El País said that Gordillo, who also served as a PRI deputy and senator, planned to transfer the $6 million to Andorra through a Dutch firm controlled by Fidemont International Corporate & Trust Services.

In an attempt to convince BPA of the legal origin of the funds, the former union boss widely known as “La Maestra” (The Teacher) provided the bank with copies of her passport, her mother’s will and documents that showed where the money had previously been held.

Elba Esther Gordillo
One reason the Banca Privada d’Andorra didn’t allow Elba Gordillo to open an account was because of her ‘inexplicable wealth.’

But BPA’s money laundering prevention committee ruled against allowing Gordillo to open an account after analyzing news stories about her “inexplicable wealth,” said El País, which obtained confidential bank documents.

“The bank also highlighted, according to an internal document, the ‘lack of transparency’ in the management of [monetary] assistance received by the SNTE during the governments of Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988–1994), Ernesto Zedillo (1994–2000), Vicente Fox (2000–2006) and Felipe Calderón (2006–2012).”

BPA noted in a document justifying its decision not to allow her to open an account in order to avoid damage to its reputation that she owned many properties and had “great wealth” in Mexico that was “generated by her political position.”

El País noted that Gordillo’s attempt to open the account came 10 months before she was arrested in México state on charges of embezzlement, tax fraud, organized crime and money laundering. She was accused of embezzling some $200 million from the SNTE. With 1.6 million members, the SNTE is the largest union in Latin America.

Gordillo spent almost five years in custody awaiting trial following her 2013 arrest before being transferred to home detention in Mexico City’s affluent Polanco neighborhood in December 2017. She was released from house arrest upon being cleared in August 2018, and the federal Attorney General’s Office returned three seized properties and other confiscated possessions to her in 2019.

El País said it was told by Gordillo’s lawyer, Marcos del Toro, that his client had never tried to open an account in Andorra and doesn’t have any money in the tiny principality. “We don’t know if somebody tried [to open an account] in her name,” he said.

San Diego home Elba Esther Gordillo put on sale in 2019.
The property at center is a San Diego home Gordillo bought through relatives and paid for in cash, according to official records.

El País also said that a court in Andorra has been investigating for the past eight years whether Gordillo is linked to an account at another Andorran bank that contains just under $605,000. The holders of the account, which allegedly contains ill-gotten money, are the Mexican siblings Álvaro and Laura Victoria Quintana Díaz. The former was a financial advisor for the SNTE.

Del Toro said that Gordillo has no knowledge of investigations against her in Andorra and denies any connection to the money held in the account.

With reports from El País 

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