A judge accused of collusion with drug cartels has been suspended after he was placed on the United States Kingpin List, while a former governor also designated as corrupt by U.S. authorities has defended his record in office.
The United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions yesterday on Jalisco-based federal magistrate Isidro Avelar Gutiérrez and former Nayarit governor Roberto Sandoval Castañeda.
Both men have received bribes from drug trafficking organizations including the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), the Treasury Department said.
Avelar is accused of releasing senior members of the CJNG in exchange for bribes. Mexican authorities froze his bank accounts earlier this week.
After yesterday’s designation by the United States, Mexico’s Federal Judiciary Council (CJF) announced in a statement that Avelar had been suspended without salary for six months.
The CJF explained that the decision was made because of indications that “he could be obtaining part of his wealth through operations with resources of illegal origin.”
Avelar’s frozen accounts held 50 million pesos (US $2.6 million) and according to federal lawmakers, he spent 18.7 million pesos on property between 2010 and 2016.
The CJF said it would carry out its own “exhaustive investigation” into Avelar’s conduct as a judge and stressed that it would do so “with strict adherence to due process, the presumption of innocence and in accordance with the constitution.”
Meanwhile, Sandoval – whose alleged corruption also included the misappropriation of state assets – has denied that he and his administration committed any wrongdoing while in office between 2011 and 2017.
“Every authority that has requested information from us about different matters has found truthful data that demonstrate with transparency . . . that I, as a civil servant, managed a government in adherence with the law,” he said on Twitter.
The former Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governor is currently under investigation for corruption by authorities in Nayarit, where properties he owns have been seized, and the federal Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF).
Sandoval asserted that the issues raised both by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the UIF “will be explained as we have always done with the peace of mind of having worked correctly.”
The ex-governor – whose wife and adult children were also designated by the U.S. for being complicit with Sandoval by holding his “ill-gotten assets” in their names – said he deeply regretted the “unfortunate moment we’re going through as a family.”
“But my faith in God and my determined patience to overcome obstacles reaffirm my conviction of who I am, what I did, and what I didn’t do.”