06/08/2011— Former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon was detained on June 4 for suspected firearms violations after Mexican soldiers seized 88 weapons and about 10,000 rounds of ammunition in the compound of his Agua Caliente race track residence. Following his arrest, Rhon was flown to Mexico City and eventually to Tijuana to face his charges. In a statement released, the federal prosecutor noted that only 10 of Rhon’s weapons had the proper permits. According to the Attorney General’s office, Rhon was formally charged today with the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition and later taken, along with ten other suspects, to the El Hongo State Penitentiary in Baja California.
Hank Rhon was mayor of Tijuana from 2004 to 2007. He resigned so he could run for governor of Baja California, but lost to current governor José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, a member of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN). It is believed that Rhon, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), will run again for governor in 2013. He is one of Mexico’s wealthiest men and is known for owning his own racetrack and for heading an off-track betting organization called Grupo Caliente, which has outlets throughout Latin America. Rhon has often been suspected of having ties to criminal activities such as drug trafficking and money laundering, but has never been accused of anything up until now.
In his defense, Rhon stated that the guns and ammunition found at his estate are used by his security team to protect his family and his holdings. Members of the PRI are enraged by the arrest, as many believe it to be “election season mischief” implemented by President Felipe Calderón’s PAN ruling party. PRI spokesman David Penchnya stated that the party will be watching very closely to see the evidence that is produced against the former mayor. Rhon’s defense lawyer, Fernando Benítez, also brought up the fact that the police came onto his property without a judicial order, saying that “if the search was illegal then everything that was obtained as evidence should be dismissed.” Many people rallied earlier this week in Tijuana to protest his arrest and demand his release.