A Supreme Court justice under investigation for allegedly transferring more than 100 million pesos to foreign bank accounts resigned on Thursday in a move that surprised his colleagues and political observers.
Eduardo Medina Mora, a former federal attorney general and security secretary who also served as ambassador to both the United States and the United Kingdom, is the first Supreme Court judge to resign since a 1994 constitutional reform that established the court in its current form.
The 62-year-old judge didn’t cite any reasons for his decision to step down in a resignation letter to President López Obrador.
Presidential spokesman Jesús Ramírez said that López Obrador accepted Medina’s resignation and that it will be sent to the Senate for analysis.
According to the constitution, the resignation of a Supreme Court justice must be submitted to the president and, if accepted, sent to the Senate for approval. A judge can only resign for “grave reasons.”
Media reported in June that Medina had allegedly transferred 103 million pesos (US $5.3 million) to bank accounts in the United States and United Kingdom between 2016 and 2018.
The government’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) announced soon after that it was collaborating with the U.S. and U.K. governments to investigate 32 transfers made by the judge, who was appointed to the court for a 15-year-term by former president Enrique Peña Nieto at the start of 2015.
Two weeks after the media first reported the transfers, Medina said they only amounted to 7.5 million pesos (US $384,000) and were consistent with his income.
He claimed that the figure reported was inflated because some of the transfers he made in pesos were assumed to have been in US dollars, which would make their value close to 20 times higher.
Medina, who voted in favor of the legalization of gay marriage, marijuana and abortion during his four and a half years as a justice, has also come under suspicion for his close relationship with Juan Collado, a high-profile lawyer currently in preventative custody on charges of involvement in organized crime and money laundering.
The newspaper Reforma reported that Medina’s resignation on Thursday took several Supreme Court justices by surprise because they had worked with him earlier the same day.
If the Senate approves the resignation, López Obrador must send a short list of three candidates to Congress from which a new judge will be selected.
Medina’s successor will be the third justice nominated by the president since he took office last December. He will have the opportunity to make a fourth appointment to the Supreme Court’s 11-judge panel in 2021 when the 15-year term of Justice José Fernando Franco concludes.
At his regular news conference on Friday, López Obrador addressed questions about Medina’s abrupt resignation.
“What’s the motive of this resignation? I believe that the justice wants to deal with the complaints filed [against him]. I don’t know if one or two or how many complaints have been filed, that’s in the hands of the federal Attorney General’s Office [FGR]. We’ve been respectful and we don’t involve ourselves in these legal issues . . .” he said.