08/06/12 (written by cmolzahn) – As reported in Reforma newspaper, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) is alleging that former Tamaulipas Governor Tomás Yarrington accepted millions of dollars in bribes from drug traffickers and corrupt police officers during his 1998 gubernatorial campaign. The PGR says that Yarrington, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), contracted Jesús Vega Sánchez, then secretary of the PRI in Tamaulipas and later president of the same organization, to set up meetings with presumed members of organized crime in order to raise funds for his campaign. Bribery and money laundering accusations against Yarrington began in November 2011, when the body of a businessman was found in Nuevo León, to which was attached a message alleging that Yarrington was involved in money laundering activities.
The PGR claims that Vega Sánchez first accepted three suitcases containing $2 million (USD), and later three more containing between $300,000 and $500,000. According to PGR court documents, one of the first contacts made by Vega Sánchez was with Juan José Muñiz Salinas, “El Bimbo,” formerly a commander with the Tamaulipas ministerial police force (Policía Ministerial) in Reynosa, and suspected envoy of Osiel Cárdenas, then leader of the Gulf cartel. The PGR documents cite as their source another former police agent and subordinate to Muñiz Salinas and now protected witness for the PGR and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, known as “Oscar.” The witness is quoted as saying that Vega Sánchez acknowledged during his conversation with Muñiz Salinas that money he was accepting on behalf of Yarrington was from organized crime, saying “it [didn’t] matter where the funds [came] from and the commitments that have to be negotiated; what drives us is money.” According to “Oscar,” Muñiz Salinas then gathered the funds that Yarrington requested through Vega Sánchez via two channels––first by consulting with the various drug smuggling groups operating in the area, and second by requesting donations from state police agents he knew and trusted. He is believed to have raised $1 million in illicit funds and handed them over to Yarrington by June 1998.
In February of this year, the PGR alerted Mexican migration authorities to impede Yarrington and two other Tamaulipas governors suspected of corruption–Eugenio Hernández Flores and Manuel Cavazos Lerma–from leaving the country. Another blow came to Yarrington in May when U.S. authorities submitted two civil forfeiture requests to confiscate Texas properties owned by Yarrington, alleging that he used illicit funds from bribery and extortion to make sizeable investments in real estate in the United States through various money laundering mechanisms. In June, possibly in response to the allegations in the United States, the PGR stepped up pressure on the former Tamaulipas governor, searching and seizing various properties belonging to him, as well as properties belonging to Hernández Flores, also of the PRI. In his defense, Yarrington has maintained his innocence by claiming that the accusations against him are political in nature. In early July, he requested an amparo, a form of court-ordered injunction on constitutional grounds, to unfreeze various bank accounts frozen as part of the PGR investigation against him. A district court judge denied Yarrington’s request, despite the decision by a federal tribunal the week before to unfreeze bank accounts belonging to Seyed Farough Fatemi Corcuera, a Tamaulipas businessman accused of being a front-man for Yarrington’s money laundering activities.
Lawmakers of the ruling National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN) are now expressing concern that the investigation into Yarrington will fizzle after Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI ascends to the presidency in December and appoints a new attorney general. Senator Rubén Camarillo Ortega urged Mexican authorities to see the case through, as well as other cases currently underway, without waiting for the United States to raise an alarm. Camarillo urged the future Peña Nieto administration to follow through with the case of Yarrington, as well as other former PRI governors accused of wrongdoing while in office, particularly Humberto Moreira, who was governor of Coahuila from 2005 to 2011, and who is accused of financial irregularities contributing to a ballooning debt during his tenure, which resulted in a six-level decline in its Standard and Poor’s credit rating.