U.S. federal prosecutors asked a Washington, D.C. district judge to drop charges against Chinese-Mexican businessman Zhenli Ye Gon, citing problems with key witnesses. Ye Gon was arrested by federal authorities in Wheaton, Md. in 2007, charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamines intended for the United States. Mexican authorities found over $205 million in cash in his Mexico City mansion, a record drug-related cash seizure, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. If the charges are dropped, it will open the door for a possible extradition to Mexico, where Ye Gon would stand trial for a number of charges, including involvement in organized crime (specifically the Sinaloa cartel), money laundering, weapons possession, and possession and trafficking of precursor ingredients for the production of methamphetamines.
The U.S. district judge in Washington, Emmet Sullivan, harshly criticized the U.S. prosecutors for a mishandling of evidence, for which Sullivan ordered an investigation. Prosecutors specifically cited problems with two key witnesses, one who recanted and another who now refuses to testify. Ye Gon’s attorney expressed his pleasure in the decision, though acknowledged that fighting extradition to Mexico will be difficult. Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney explained that the decision to abandon prosecution of Ye Gon was based on the rationale that Mexican authorities have a better case against him. A hearing deciding whether to authorize Ye Gon’s extradition will take place in Washington on August 26.
In another legal victory for the Calderón administration, a U.S. judge authorized the extradition to Mexico of Brenda Quevedo Cruz, whom Mexican authorities have connected to the kidnapping and murder of a Mexican businessman four years ago. Quevedo Cruz was arrested in the United states in 2007.
Extraditions between the United States and Mexico have become more common since President Calderón took office in December 2006, though extraditions to the United States from Mexico are far more prevalent. In June of this year, Mexico extradited three U.S. citizens, two wanted for drug trafficking offenses and one for murder and robbery, bringing the total for 2009 to 54.
From the July Justice in Mexico Project’s Monthly News Report:
Barrett, Devlin. “US wants to drop drug charges against millionaire.” Associated Press June 22, 2009.
Lozano, Javier. “EU retira acusación de narcotráfico a Ye Gon.” La Jornada June 23, 2009.
“Over Fifty Indicted Criminals Extradited By Mexico This Year.” U.S. Embassy. Press Release June 29, 2009.
“Autoriza EU extradición de plagiaria de Wallace a México..” La Crónica de Hoy June 29, 2009.