Friday, December 1, 2023

San Luis Potosí governor-elect under federal investigation for corruption

The winner of Sunday’s election for governor in San Luis Potosí is under investigation by the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) for money laundering and illicit enrichment.

Preliminary results show that Ricardo Gallardo Cardona, candidate for a Green Party (PVEM)-Labor Party (PT) alliance, won a tight race in the Bajío region state.

But his capacity to take office could be threatened by criminal charges.

Gallardo, a 40-year-old lawyer and father of four children to three different women, is under investigation for participation in an alleged embezzlement and money laundering scheme, in which his father and other family members are also accused of involvement.

Some 734.6 million pesos (US $37 million) were allegedly diverted from the municipal councils of San Luis Potosí and Soledad de Graciano Sánchez to companies — including ones owned by the Gallardo family —  via fake contracts.

Gallardo was mayor of Soledad, which borders the state capital, between 2012 and 2014 and his father held office there between 2009 and 2012. Ricardo Gallardo Juárez, the governor-elect’s father, went on to govern San Luis Potosí city as mayor between 2015 and 2018.

Gallardo, nicknamed “El Pollo” (The Chicken) for his family’s former interests in the poultry industry, was accused in 2015 of embezzling 209 million pesos from municipal coffers in Soledad, 119.3 million pesos of which allegedly went to companies he owned.

He is now under investigation for the alleged illicit enrichment again after the federal government’s Financial Intelligence Unit referred the matter to the FGR.

Gallardo, who has also served as a federal deputy, has filed injunction requests in an attempt to gain access to the FGR’s files against him.

The governor-elect’s alleged criminal activity landed him in prison in 2015 on charges of involvement in organized crime and money laundering. He was arrested in January of that year and remained in custody for 11 months before the charges against him were dropped due to a lack of evidence. His imprisonment upset his intention to run for governor in San Luis Potosí in 2015.

After his release, Gallardo was out of politics for more than two years before being elected to federal Congress in 2018 for the Democratic Revolution Party. He quit that party in February 2019 before allying himself with the PVEM and PT, parties that are part of a coalition with the ruling Morena party but which chose to form their own ticket in San Luis Potosí.

The FGR began investigating Gallardo in August 2019, almost four years after he was absolved of charges of organized crime — he was allegedly linked to the Zetas cartel — and money laundering. The judge who released him from custody left open the possibility that he could be investigated for the same crimes by federal authorities. He does not appear to be under investigation now for organized crime links.

According to a report by the news website Astrolabio, the wealth of the Gallardo family began to grow quickly when Ricardo Gallardo Juárez took office as mayor of Soledad de Graciano Sánchez in 2009.

The governor-elect and his father offloaded their debt-laden chicken distribution company and became real estate entrepreneurs, eventually building a property portfolio worth more than 100 million pesos (US $5 million).

While Gallardo is under investigation by the FGR, he is not an enemy of the federal government and the ruling Morena party, the newspaper Reforma reported. Just a few days ago, Morena national president Mario Delgado described him as an ally of the fourth transformation, the government’s self-anointed nickname.

Gallardo is due to take office in San Luis Potosí in late September.

With reports from Reforma (sp) 

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