Thursday, July 05, 2007

So that's where all the money in Mexico was

MEXICO CITY: The Mexican government vigorously denied this week the accusations of a Chinese-Mexican businessman who is wanted on drug charges here but who asserts that $150 million found hidden in his mansion came from members of President Felipe Calderón's party, including the secretary of labor.

Zhenli Ye Gon, a naturalized Mexican citizen who owns a pharmaceutical company, rocked the political world here recently by suggesting, through his lawyer in New York, that the labor secretary, Javier Lozano Alarcón, had threatened to kill him last year unless he agreed to hide duffel bags stuffed with tens of millions of dollars in his house.

On Tuesday, Lozano Alarcón issued a statement calling the charges "false, absurd, untrue, crooked and perverse." A spokesman for Calderón, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the president had yet to make an official statement, said Zhenli appeared to be making false charges as part of a strategy to broker a deal with prosecutors here.

Mexico's attorney general, Eduardo Medina Mora, said in a televised interview Monday that the idea that someone from Calderón's campaign or cabinet would force Zhenli to hide money seemed "ridiculous and fantastic."

"Evidently the man dedicated himself to the illicit importation of pseudoephedrine, and this was sold to drug traffickers," the attorney general said. "This money was the product of that activity."

He said the government had evidence that Zhenli, 44, had illegally imported 19 tons of pseudoephedrine, a decongestant, and intended to sell it to drug dealers who use it to manufacture methamphetamine, a synthetic stimulant known on the street as "ice."

Zhenli denied the charge in an interview with The Associated Press published Saturday; the news agency said the interview was given in the New York office of his lawyer, Ning Ye.

Zhenli said that various party officials had delivered money for him to hide, but he did not provide their names.

The Mexican authorities began investigating Zhenli in December, after discovering an illicit shipment of pseudoephedrine on a boat in the port of Lázaro Cárdenas, prosecutors say. The chemical was being shipped to Unimed, a pharmaceutical company Zhenli started in 1997, they said.

In a dispute between Mexican government officials and a Chinese drug dealer who has more credibility? I'd have to say its about 50/50.

In the Mexican government's favor I would ask why the ruling party would allow Zhenli to be investigated and raided if he were in bed with them. But then there could well be other factors that we don't know about.

Whatever the truth in this specific case the fact that the story sounds eminently credible tells you everything you need to know about the Mexican government.