A Condo In Scottsdale, And A Fugitive Mexican Governor

By Jorge Valencia
December 20, 2016
Gobierno de Veracruz; FBI; Gobierno Municipal de Tampico; Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia
Governors on the run: Javier Duarte of Veracruz, Tomas Yarrington of Tamaulipas and Eugenio Hernandez of Tamaulipas. Tomas Yarrington of Sonra (far right) turned himself into authorities this year.

Authorities across Mexico are investigating a handful of former state governors, and the most notorious case has a possible link extending to the Valley of the Sun.

In Scottsdale, past a golf course and at the end of a cul-de-sac, we visited a two-story stucco condo. Just like Mexican prosecutors, we were looking to find someone who knows Javier Duarte, the former governor of Veracruz in southern Mexico.

We didn’t get an answer at the door, and we’re not naming the condo owner because he hasn’t been charged with any crime. But Mexican authorities believe he purchased several properties in the U.S. on behalf of Duarte, including this condo in Scottsdale, which is valued at about $600,000.
In Mexico City, authorities charged Duarte only recently, though local media began reporting on possible instances of corruption in his administration soon after he swore in as governor of Veracruz in 2010.

The Mexican Attorney General’s Office has distributed flyers online, offering $15 million pesos, or about $740,000, for information leading to Duarte’s whereabouts. They say they’re looking for him in the U.S., Mexico and Spain.

Prosecutors suspect him of diverting taxpayer money by parking it in shell companies. According to numerous media reports, Duarte contracted with companies headquartered in empty houses or taquerias. Last month, prosecutors froze 112 bank accounts and 5 businesses connected to him.

After Duarte resigned, his interim successor allowed him to use a state-owned helicopter to fly to an airport.

“Javier Duarte is a crook,” says Juan Pardinas, director of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness. “He’s a very important crook in the map of the Mexican political system.”

Duarte is one three former Mexican governors being sought by Mexican authorities. Eugenio Hernandez, former governor of the state of Tamaulipas, is being sought by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on money-laundering charges, and Tomas Yarrington, also a former governor of Tamaulipas, is being sought by Mexican prosecutors on suspicion of receiving bribery from the Gulf Cartel.

A fourth former governor, Guillermo Padres of Sonora, neighboring Arizona, was charged with money laundering and racketeering and turned himself to Mexican authorities last month.

“It’s very sad, but corruption has turned into the worst nightmare in Mexico,” says Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, a senator from the Mexican state of Guanajuato and a member of the opposition National Action Party. Romero Hicks was one of the leading supporters of a bill that would create an agency to oversee corruption prevention.

Under the proposal, informally known as three out of three, public servants would be required to publicly disclose their taxes, assets and potential conflicts of interest.

More than 600,000 people signed a petition asking for the law, and many asked: why hasn’t the government done anything sooner?

“There’s no clear explanation,” Romero Hicks says. And, obviously, we don’t only have cases like governors. The president and his wife have been pointed out, a former treasury minister, and many others also.”
Romero Hicks recognizes that people’s lack of trust in their elected officials is hitting historic lows. People have three main concerns, he says: violence, safety and corruption.
Mexico’s ability to fight corruption could depend on who gets elected in 2018. Javier Duarte of Veracruz and the other governors were investigated only after they were voted out of office.

For now, Duarte is nowhere to be seen in Arizona, Mexico or anywhere else.