Former cabinet secretary Rosario Robles, currently in preventative prison on charges of involvement in a multi-billion-peso embezzlement scheme, claims she has no money to pay for her defense.
The law firms Hernández Barros and Oléa & Oléa said in a statement issued on Friday that Robles – who served as both secretary of social development and secretary of agrarian development and urban planning in the government of former president Enrique Peña Nieto – informed them that due to her “precarious economic situation” she is no longer able to “cover the payment of our professional fees.
“. . . Accordingly, the members of the law firms Hernández Barros and Oléa & Oléa. . . and [Rosario] Robles Berlanga have together decided to conclude our professional relationship . . .” the statement said.
Lawyer Julio Hernández Barros, who agreed to continue as Robles’s sole lawyer until she finds a new legal team, told the newspaper El Universal that the decision to part ways was made mutually and on good terms.
He said that Robles had been forced to ask family and friends to fund her defense as a result of her financial difficulties.
A trip by lawyers to Washington D.C. in late August to file a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against Judge Felipe de Jesús Delgadillo Padierna on the grounds that he acted illegally and arbitrarily in ordering Robles to stand trial and remain in custody was paid for by the ex-secretary’s relatives and friends, Hernández said.
“. . . Due to the economic situation of Rosario Robles it is impossible to continue defending her but we’re not going to leave her on her own because I’ll lead [the defense] until she finds a new lawyer,” he added.
The lawyer also said that his 63-year-old client – jailed on August 13 on charges related to the so-called master fraud embezzlement scheme – is a “little bit unwell” and “desperate” to get out of prison.
“. . . Her blood pressure goes up and down and she would prefer to be out [of prison] to await her trial in freedom,” Hernández said.
If found guilty on charges that, through omission, she allowed over 5 billion pesos (US $256 million) to be misappropriated from the two secretariats she headed, Robles faces a prison term of up to 23 years.
The ex-secretary is the highest profile member of the Peña Nieto government to have been arrested on corruption charges.
Another top official in the previous administration, former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya, is also accused of corruption but authorities have failed to apprehend him and he is believed to have fled to Europe.