U.S. seeks to seize property of ex-Mexican official

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 11, 2012 10:19 AM
U.S. seeks to seize property of ex-Mexican official

By Jim Forsyth and Jared Taylor

(Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday moved to seize millions of dollars' worth of real estate in Texas that a former governor of a Mexican state is accused of buying with payments from drug cartels and from criminal extortion and bribery schemes.

Tomas Yarrington, the former governor of Tamaulipas, Mexico, was not charged criminally but two civil lawsuits were brought against him in U.S. federal court. He is accused of "using his illicit income from his political years to become a major real estate investor" in the United States and launder millions of dollars in proceeds from drug trafficking activities.

One of the properties was a condo in the resort community of South Padre Island, at the southern tip of Texas, and the other was a larger site in San Antonio, prosecutors said.

"We remain steadfast in our commitment in targeting not only the drug cartels, but those who allegedly provide support and service to them," Kenneth Magidson, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, said in announcing the indictment.

Yarrington was governor from 1999 to 2005 of Tamaulipas, which is located across the Rio Grande from Texas and is a hotbed of violent narcotics trafficking. He was mayor of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, from 1992 to 1995, and sought a nomination for the Mexican presidency in 2005.

The action by U.S. prosecutors came on the same day they revealed the indictment of a Mexican businessman on charges that he bought U.S. property to launder bribes paid by the violent Gulf drug cartel to top officials in Tamaulipas.

The businessman, Fernando Alejandro Cano Martinez of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, is accused of paying bribes to government officials on behalf of the Gulf cartel. He also is accused of bank fraud. Yarrington was not named as the recipient of a bribe in the indictment filed against Cano Martinez.

Magidson said Cano remains at large and that warrants have been issued for his arrest in the United States and Mexico.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Lisa Shumaker)