Mexico seeks freeze on politician's bank accounts

AP News
Posted: Jun 01, 2012 8:19 PM
Mexico seeks freeze on politician's bank accounts

Mexican federal prosecutors are seeking to freeze all bank accounts linked to a former governor of a northern state that borders Texas who has been accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from drug cartels, an official said Friday.

An official with the Attorney General's Office said the request submitted to the National Banking and Securities Commission was part of the investigation into allegations against former Tamaulipas Gov. Tomas Yarrington. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss an investigation in progress.

No criminal charges have been filed against Yarrington, who was governor from 1999 to 2004. But civil actions filed by U.S. authorities allege that Yarrington "acquired millions of dollars in payments" while in public office from drug cartels "and from various extortion or bribery schemes."

Yarrington used various front men and businesses "to become a major real estate investor through various money laundering mechanisms," according to court documents filed in one of the cases, in Corpus Christi, Texas. The other forfeiture case was filed in San Antonio.

U.S. authorities are trying to confiscate a condominium in South Padre Island and a 46-acre (18.6-hectare) property in San Antonio.

Yarrington's lawyer, Joel Androphy, said his client has no connections with the Texas properties and charged that Mexican authorities are acting against him for political reasons.

"They don't have criminal allegations down there against him," Androphy said. "It's good press and it's for political reasons."

Yarrington is a member of the once dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which suspended him pending the resolution of the investigation.

The PRI's presidential candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, is leading his two main opponents in opinion polls ahead of Mexico's July 1 election.

U.S. authorities allege Yarrington took money from the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels, citing testimony from four witnesses who spoke to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In the case in a Corpus Christi court, prosecutors allege Yarrington turned to a Mexican businessman who had been a contractor with the Mexican border city of Matamoros so he could be the official buyer of a condo in South Padre Island valued at $450,000. Yarrington was mayor of Matamoros from 1992 to 1995.

The property was registered to Napoleon Rodriguez, who has been detained Mexican prosecutors. Rodriguez has acknowledged that he received money from Yarrington to buy the condo, the official in Mexico's federal Attorney General's Office said.

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U.S. authorities have indicted another Mexican businessman who allegedly received and distributed bribes from the Gulf cartel to Tamaulipas officials to guarantee minimal police interference in the cartel's activities.

The indictment of Fernando Alejandro Cano Martinez on money laundering charges alleges that he and "one or more unindicted co-conspirators" used a $6.7 million bank loan to buy a 46-acre (18.6-hectare) property in Bexar County, where San Antonio is located.

Cano is a builder from Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas, where his company has enjoyed government construction contracts under a string of governors from the PRI since at least 1993. One of the last contracts awarded to his company was in 2009, for a section of a highway accessing land he owned in front of the industrial port of Altamira. A federal auditor forced him to return 2 million pesos on that project for stretches that were paid for but not paved.

Mexican federal prosecutors are looking for Cano, who remains at large, the Attorney General's Office official said. No attorney was listed for him.


Associated Press writer Michael Weissenstein contributed to this report.