Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Jailed ex-attorney general Murillo Karam now under investigation for financial corruption

The federal government’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) announced Tuesday that it has filed a corruption complaint against former attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam, who is currently in prison on charges related to the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students in Guerrero in 2014.

The UIF said in a statement that it filed a complaint with the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) in which it accuses Murillo of carrying out operations with resources of illicit origin.

The complaint stems from a UIF investigation into “politically exposed Mexican persons” mentioned in the Pandora Papers, a massive trove of leaked data exposing tax haven secrecy.

The UIF said that it had determined that Murillo – attorney general during the first two years of the 2012-18 government led by former president Enrique Peña Nieto – “is possibly related to a scheme of operations with resources of illicit origin” because a “family company” in which his children, nephew and son-in-law are partners benefited from federal government contracts when he was in office.

graphic on illicit gains of mexico's ex-attorney general by Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity
The NGO Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity was already accusing Murillo of illicit gain in 2016. This graphic shows how Murillo’s three construction companies (names in gray) had a 714% growth in earnings during the period in which he was Mexico’s attorney general. MCCI

It said that the Ministry of Communications and Transport awarded the company contracts between 2013 and 2015, a period when the son of then communications and transport minister, Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, was Murillo’s secretary.

“It was possibly a scheme of mutual compensation in which the family company benefited from contracts [gained] through influences,” the UIF said.

According to the non-governmental organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, three construction companies owned by or closely associated with Murillo’s relatives – Alvarga, Kuoro and Itrio – were awarded contracts worth more than 4.6 billion pesos (over US $300 million at the time) while Murillo was attorney general.

The UIF didn’t name the company it referred to in its statement. However, it did say that it detected a range of “irregularities” in the way in which the company was set up and operated. It raised doubts about the addresses at which the company supposedly operated and its tax declarations, and said that it detected that it sent resources to and received resources from “simulated companies, … which could lead to possible tax fraud.”

Ayotzinapa 43 case protest in Chilpancingo, Guerrero
Murillo is currently in prison, accused of covering up the kidnapping of 43 college students in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014, an unsolved case that still draws yearly protests on the date of the students’ disappearance. Dassaev Téllez Adame/Cuartoscuro

In addition, the UIF said it detected that Murillo received a US $2.8 million return on a foreign investment in 2017 and that he deposited 26.5 million pesos (US $1.37 million at today’s exchange rate) in personal bank accounts in 2020 and 2021. The deposits weren’t declared to tax authorities, the agency added.

The UIF said it turned over its evidence against Murillo to the FGR when it filed a complaint against him on Monday. The announcement of the probe into the alleged corruption committed by the former attorney general comes almost three months after he was arrested on charges of forced disappearance, torture and obstruction of justice in connection with the abduction of the 43 Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College students in Iguala, Guerrero, on September 26, 2014.

Murillo is considered the key architect of the previous government’s so-called “historical truth” with regard to what happened to the students, but the current government claims that he and other ex-officials fabricated that version of events.

The ex-attorney general said in January 2015 that the the students, traveling on a bus they commandeered to go to a protest in Mexico City, were intercepted by corrupt municipal police who handed them over to members of the Guerreros Unidos crime gang. The Guerreros Unidos — mistaking them for rival gangsters — killed them, burned their bodies in a dump in the municipality of Cocula and disposed of their remains in a nearby river, according to the version of events presented by Murillo.

As has long been suspected, the current government believes that the army was involved in the students’ disappearance, but the accusations set out in a recent Ayotzinapa truth commission report have not yet been tested in court.

With reports from El País 

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