The governor of Veracruz has been accused of playing politics after a state judge issued an arrest warrant for the wife of former governor Javier Duarte, who is currently awaiting trial on corruption charges.
The National Action Party (PAN) government led by Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares alleges that Karime Macías Tubilla embezzled 112 million pesos (US $5.65 million at today’s exchange rate) during her husband’s administration from 2010 to 2016.
Apart from serving as first lady, Macías also headed up the state branch of the federally-run DIF family services agency.
Charges that the former first lady awarded contracts to alleged shell companies while in the latter role were the basis on which the judge issued the warrant Friday, Veracruz Attorney General Jorge Winckler Ortiz told a press conference Sunday.
“It has been determined that resources of that institution [DIF] were used to subscribe to and pay for contracts with at least six front or shell companies,” he said.
Winckler said the funds were used to acquire a range of goods — such as medical equipment and rainwater harvesting systems — that would have benefited people living in vulnerable communities, but there is no evidence that they were ever delivered or received.
He also said the amount Macías allegedly diverted could be greater than 112 million pesos because investigations into her alleged corruption are continuing.
Given that she is believed to be residing in London, England, with the couple’s children, Winckler said, his office would ask its federal counterpart — the PGR — to issue an immigration alert and request a red notice from Interpol for the accused’s arrest and extradition.
Interpol issued the red notice today.
Hours before the Veracruz government announced the judge’s ruling and its intention to seek an extradition order, Duarte predicted through his lawyer that Yunes Linares would seek to execute arrest warrants against both his wife and his mother-in-law, María Virginia Tubilla.
The governor’s motivation, the lawyer charged in a letter, was to win votes for his son — Miguel Ángel Yunes Márquez — who is aiming to succeed his father as governor in the July 1 election under the banner of a PAN-led coalition.
“In the case of this new onslaught against the wife and mother-in-law of ex-governor Javier Duarte, the self-interest of [provoking] a sensationalist and scandalous [newspaper] article is greater than the legal intent,” the letter said.
“The objective of the plaintiff, which in this case is the Attorney General’s office of Veracruz, is very clear: influence the election, without caring what happens afterwards . . .” it continued.
The view expressed in the letter was reiterated yesterday by Héctor Yunes Landa, a federal Senator for Veracruz representing the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and president of the Congress anti-corruption committee.
“I don’t know if there is enough evidence, I’m not aware of any file in that respect but if there is evidence to initiate proceedings against a Veracruz citizen who has committed a crime, it has to be done, but I don’t agree with them using the Attorney General’s office as an electoral arm of Governor Yunes,” he said.
In an interview with the newspaper Milenio, the Senator suggested the arrest warrant was politically motivated.
“If there is evidence to initiate legal proceedings against any person, there shouldn’t be any limitation to do it. But knowing the governor [Yunes], the safest bet is that it’s a smokescreen by the governor in the middle of the electoral process, so that his party wins [more] votes,” Yunes Landa said.
In a press conference today, Governor Yunes Linares rejected the claims that his government’s pursuit of Macías was politically motivated, charging instead that its aim is to secure justice for the people of Veracruz.
The governor also provided video evidence that he said showed that Macías lives in Belgravia, an affluent district in West London, and charged that she is covering monthly expenses of 60,000 pounds (US $79,500).
“. . . We thought she was living modestly on the outskirts of London . . . we were wrong, we were surprised. In London, she is continuing a life of luxury and corruption. The money of Veracruz citizens is still being used to live in the lap of luxury,” Yunes Linares said.
“Karime Macías is a key player in the plot of corruption in [Duarte’s] six-year term. She’s not just the governor’s wife, she’s a significant actor in this plot of corruption. Arresting her and trying her is to open the door on a brutal scandal and it’s the door to reach thousands and millions of pesos that are outside Mexico,” he added.
In December, Macías demanded the return of her diaries and personal belongings in a letter to the Veracruz Attorney General’s office in which she also said she was forced to leave Mexico because of Yunes Linares’ “persecution.”
Duarte, who was extradited to Mexico in July 2017 following his arrest in Guatemala three months earlier, is one of several PRI state governors accused of corruption, including Roberto Borge of Quintana Roo and César Duarte of Chihuahua.