Authorities have seized Javier Duarte’s riverfront house in the picturesque town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tlacotalpan.
Governor Miguel Ángel Yunes yesterday signed a decree expropriating the property of his predecessor, who is currently awaiting extradition proceedings in Guatemala, where he was arrested April 15. Yunes’ office said the house had been purchased through prestanombres, or front men, with public funds.
It will now house government offices and become “an asset of the people of Veracruz in the care of the Institute of Culture of Veracruz,” said Yunes, who described the expropriation as an act of justice.
“We have to recover the assets and resources taken by Duarte and his gang,” he added.
Last year, the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) found two paintings by Mexican artist Diego Rivera inside the Tlacotalpan house, where Duarte docked his Italian-made luxury yacht, a Riva Aquariva Super worth US $790,000.
It was reported last week that the house, itself a heritage building, was operated as the Hotel Spa Casa Tlacotalpan but had been closed because its legal registration was incomplete, property taxes had not been paid and other faults.
Meanwhile, the investigation continues into Duarte’s alleged organized crime and money laundering, which entailed diverting and embezzling funds from state coffers. Four major state secretariats — Health, Education, Public Security and Agricultural Development (Sedarpa) — were allegedly used by Duarte to divert money.
During 2015, two ghost companies created by Duarte’s front men received up to 350 million pesos ($55.2 million) in funding from the Education Secretariat.
This information was provided by Alfonso Ortega López, a tax lawyer once close to Duarte, to the PGR.
Another of the former governor’s collaborators, Arturo Bermúdez Zurita, offered the PGR details on the modus operandi behind those illicit operations.
Then Public Security Secretary Bermúdez said that in mid-2014 he received a call from former Veracruz Treasurer Antonio Tarek Abdalá Saad, who informed him of Duarte’s new instructions.
These explained that all federal resources for public security would be received directly by Bermúdez’ secretariat, bypassing the state Finance Secretariat.
The funds were then to be transferred to the state treasury or paid to contractors to be determined by Duarte. Abdalá added that such procedures were also being implemented in the Health and Education Secretariats, and in Sedarpa.
Other senior officials have also been singled out as close collaborators in Duarte’s embezzlement scheme, including Flavino Ríos Alvarado, former interim governor and Duarte’s Interior Secretary, now in jail for allegedly helping Duarte escape last October.