Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Duarte probe continues; Veracruz governor calls sentence a pardon

The nine-year prison sentence handed down to the former governor of Veracruz yesterday does not spell the end of the federal investigation into corruption in the Gulf coast state.

Federal prosecutor Felipe de Jesús Muñoz Vázquez told a press conference today that the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) continues to seek to execute arrest warrants against former state government officials who served during the administration of Javier Duarte and allegedly participated in the ex-governor’s embezzlement scheme.

One of the persons sought has a “biblical name,” Muñoz said, referring to Moisés Mansur, who is believed to have been Duarte’s main front man.

“We have several files and preliminary investigations open . . . against officials who worked in Javier’s administration . . . and I must point out that we even have arrest warrants against them. The investigation continues,” he said.

The ex-governor’s wife, Karime Macías, who is believed to be living in London, England, is also under investigation although the PGR prosecutor didn’t offer details about the case against her.

With regard to Duarte’s sentence, which could see the ex-governor leave prison on parole in just over three years, Muñoz said “when we come across cases like this . . . we’re never satisfied” but added “the law mandates benefits and we have to follow what the law says.”

Before yesterday’s hearing, Duarte negotiated an abbreviated criminal procedure with the PGR which allowed him to avoid an oral trial by pleading guilty to the charges against him in advance.

In exchange, the PGR agreed to seek minimum sentences for each crime he was accused of — both money laundering and organized crime charges have five-year minimums — and cut one year from his sentence.

The one year and five months Duarte has already spent in custody were deducted from his sentence, meaning that he could seek supervised release as soon as October 2021.

The PGR didn’t seek reparations from Duarte for the billions of pesos in state money he is estimated to have embezzled but Muñoz said the 41 properties seized added up to an almost equivalent amount.

“. . . It’s a significant amount, to give an example, we seized . . . three apartments in Santa Fe [Mexico City], each with an approximate value of 45 million pesos . . . also last year an amount of approximately 440 million pesos was returned to the government of Veracruz . . .” he said.

However, the Federal Auditor’s Office has estimated that Duarte could have embezzled more than 61 billion pesos between 2011 and 2016.

Veracruz Governor Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares said in a radio interview this morning that “nobody can be satisfied” with the penalty Duarte received considering the damage he did to the state but added “he pleaded guilty, that’s the important thing.”

Yunes, who has made pursuing Duarte and other allegedly corrupt ex-officials central to his administration, added that he understood the PGR had accepted Duarte’s abbreviated procedure proposal because “it didn’t have sufficient evidence to support the organized crime accusation.”

But in a press conference later the governor took a harder stand, declaring the sentence was more like a pardon. He described it as an outrage to all the citizens of Veracruz.

He estimated the value of the seized properties at 800 million pesos and issued a demand that they be turned over to his state.

In the earlier interview the governor said his administration is hopeful that the government of Guatemala — where Duarte was arrested in April 2017 — will allow the ex-governor to be tried for the crime of enforced disappearance, for which Veracruz authorities have an outstanding arrest warrant.

Veracruz state police, including four high-ranking former security officials, have already been accused of using death squad tactics to forcibly disappear at least 15 people during the ex-governor’s rule.

Authorities in Veracruz are also pursuing Duarte on charges of embezzlement and misuse of powers and Yunes said that he hoped more years would be added to the former governor’s sentence.

Source: Reforma (sp), Milenio (sp), El Financiero (sp) 

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