Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Founder of big cat sanctuary under investigation for money laundering

The founder of Black Jaguar White Tiger, a big cat sanctuary in the Ajusco area on the outer edge of Mexico City, is under investigation for money laundering after a Mexican citizen filed a complaint before the FGR along with two other government officials from the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) and the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat).

“Owing to an anonymous complaint filed before Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, in which it is mentioned that Eduardo Mauricio Moisés Serio is part of organized crime, an investigation has started its course at the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime (FEMDO),” revealed information to which Forbes México had access to.

The complaint accuses the founder of Black Jaguar White Tiger as well as Joel González Moreno, a former Profepa official, and Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, the former Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, of being involved in organized crime activities in the form of money laundering.

This complaint adds to the one filed in June by the Association of Zoos, Breeders and Aquariums of Mexico, the Azcarm, before the FGR, which accused Serio of animal abuse. The claim exposed the animal shelter for the cruel conditions in which it kept the felines: malnutrition, abandonment, then allegedly burying the animals that didn’t survive in clandestine graves.

A Profepa official feeds a monkey at the sanctuary in July.
A Profepa official feeds a monkey at the sanctuary in July. Twitter @PROFEPA_Mx

Serio denied the abuses after authorities seized 200 big cats in July including African lions, white lions, tigers, jaguars, and pumas. Two of his bank accounts were also frozen by the tax authority in Mexico — one in Citibanamex and the other one in Banco Afirme.

On Monday morning, Forbes reported that at the same time that the money laundering claim was being filed by the FGR, the animal shelter was notified that its bank accounts were unfrozen.

A judge in Mexico’s City Court of Justice told the board of Citibanamex to unfreeze bank accounts owned by the non-profit Black Jaguar White Tiger responding to multiple amparos (a Mexican legal mechanism designed to protect human rights) filed by Serio’s attorney, Salvador Padilla, a specialist in money laundering issues.

Many of the felines rescued from the animal shelter have been transferred to other locations within Mexico. To name a few, Zacango Park, located in Calimaya, México state, received five felines by the end of July. Twelve were relocated to Africam Safari, a wildlife conservation park in Puebla a month after, and three chronically ill big cats were taken to Reino Animal, a conservation center located in México state’s Teotihuacán municipality.

As of Aug. 26, Profepa reported having transferred 121 animals to other rescue centers in the country, including pumas, servals, tigers, jaguars, lions, leopards, coyotes, spider monkeys, capuchins and baboons.

Eighteen of Azcarm’s member zoos have assumed the responsibility of properly caring for the majority of the animals seized from the shelter, including the San Juan de Aragón Zoo in Mexico City, which received four male African lions earlier this month.

With reports from Infobae and Forbes México

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