Police in Mexico City have arrested four suspects in the case of a double murder of a French restaurant owner and his Mexican business partner whose bodies were found in a southern borough of the capital on Saturday.
The bound and bloody bodies of dual French-Mexican citizen Baptiste Jacques Daniel Lormand, owner of a restaurant/cantina in Mexico City’s upscale Polanco neighborhood and a similar establishment in the historic center, and Luis Orozco were found on a vacant lot in the borough of Tlalpan.
Mexico City Police Chief Omar García Harfuch announced on Twitter Monday that a person possibility related to the murders had been arrested in the borough of Magdalena Contreras, which adjoins Tlapan.
Above a photo of the male suspect, García wrote that the arrest “confirms the line of investigation previously presented at a press conference.” Police announced three more arrests Tuesday morning and the discovery of a warehouse containing liquor and firearms. Some of the liquor had a retail value of 70,000 pesos (US $3,500) per bottle.
The police chief said Sunday that there was evidence that Lormand, a 45-year-old Parisian who was a long-term resident of Mexico City, and Orozco had traveled to a rural part of southern Mexico City in separate vehicles late Thursday to sell bottles of high-end wine or liquor.
García said that it appeared that the men met with people who stole the alcohol and murdered them. Their vehicles were found near the lot where their bodies were located.
“The investigation indicates that they wanted to rob them of the merchandise that they were offering for sale,” García said.
He and other officials denied that the case was one of kidnapping or related to extortion, a problem that many business owners in Mexico City face.
The police chief said that there have been several cases in southern Mexico City in which people have been attacked while trying to buy or sell merchandise that was advertised online.
“We have identified a modus operandi of setting up fake transactions of goods advertised to the public, in which at the moment that a face-to-face meeting is set up to supposedly carry out the transaction, the sellers are attacked and sometimes killed,” García said.
A spokesman for the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office (FGJ) said that Lormand may have started selling expensive alcohol because the restaurant industry was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic or because normal channels for distributing high-end wine and liquor were disrupted by the virus outbreak.
“The economic situation has of course been substantially altered by the pandemic, and in many cases people have turned to other activities,” Ulises Lara said.
A friend of Lormand told the newspaper El País that the Frenchman recently bought alcohol worth about 500,000 pesos (US $25,000) from a restaurant that closed and had been in the process of reselling it.
Lara said Monday that the FGJ was continuing to collect information about the business activities of Lormand and Orozco. He said authorities were looking at the two men’s telephone records to determine whom they had communicated with prior to their deaths.
According to media reports, the man arrested on Monday was detained in possession of drugs, firearms and Courvoisier cognac that Lormand and Orozco may have been selling.
It was unclear why the men were murdered if the people they met with only wanted to steal the alcohol.
Writing in the El Universal newspaper, security analyst Alejandro Hope contended that the case has a “structural cause – impunity.”
In a column under the headline, “Life is worthless,” Hope wrote that “killing is very cheap” in Mexico. “The probabilities that a killer will be punished are very low.”
The murders were condemned by members of Mexico City’s French community who along with restaurant industry workers marched on Monday afternoon from a traffic circle in Polanco to the French embassy, located in the same neighborhood. Dressed in white and holding placards with messages such as ¡Ya Basta! (Enough Already!) they called for justice for the two slain men.
French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Asvazadourian wrote on Twitter, “Like our entire community, I am saddened by the murder of our countryman.”
President López Obrador also addressed the case on Monday, telling reporters at his regular news conference that justice will be served.
“Work is being done on a thoroughgoing investigation. One has to have faith that we will be able to make progress with that investigation,” he said. “Nobody will be allowed impunity.”