A former governor wanted in Mexico on charges of stealing tens of millions of dollars while in office was arrested in Miami and faces extradition to his country, U.S. authorities said.
César Horacio Duarte Jáquez, who served as governor of Chihuahua, made his first appearance in Miami federal court Friday by video hookup with the Federal Detention Center and will have a bond hearing the week of July 20, a magistrate judge said. An extradition hearing will be scheduled later.
Durate’s defense attorneys, Henry Bell and Armando Rosquete, declined to comment after the hearing.
Duarte has been a fugitive living in Texas and other parts of the United States since leaving office and fleeing Mexico in 2017 amid corruption allegations. He was arrested on Wednesday by the U.S. Marshals Service after a traffic stop in Miami, authorities said.
An extradition petition, filed initially by federal prosecutors in New Mexico, says Duarte is charged with aggravated embezzlement and conspiracy charges in Mexico.
Duarte is accused of embezzling tens of millions of dollars from a government program “purportedly intended to support the state’s cattle production and to promote the availability of quality beef,” as well as an “alleged real estate purchase for the state,” according to a U.S. complaint seeking the former governor’s extradition.
Instead, Duarte directed the transfer of the vast sums of public money to two Mexican companies that he controlled, the complaint says.
Duarte, the governor of Chihuahua from 2010 to 2016, transferred the government funds to two companies of which he was the majority stockholder and chairman of the board of directors, “posing a conflict of interest,” the complaint says. They are: Ganadera Regional General Division del Norte de Estado de Chihuahua and Financiera de la División del Norte, S.A. SOFOM, ENR.
The government funds were transferred to Duarte’s companies between 2011 and 2014.
“Numerous witnesses told authorities that the payments were fraudulent, that the process allocating those payments was irregular, and that the money was not used for any public purpose,” the complaint says. “According to several witnessses, the payments were made to sham contracts that were executed upon the instructions of Duarte.”
The complaint says the Chihuahua governor “gave instructions both directly and through others,” including the son of a childhood friend of Duarte’s. The son worked in several positions in Duarte’s administration. Other high-ranking officials in his administration were also involved in the embezzlement scheme, according to the complaint.
Mexican authorities claim the money transferred from the state treasury to Duarte’s two companies, Unión Ganadera and Financiera, for the purported cattle programs and real estate purchase “was not used as earmarked,” the complaint says.
Financial experts traced the “fraudulent” transfers to bank accounts, property and companies related to Duarte or his associates, including disbursements by accountants for his businesses and his wife’s construction company, according to the complaint.
In one fraudulent transfer, on June 1, 2011, Duarte’s administration agreed to pay Unión Ganadera $582,965 to purchase equipment for the artificial insemination of beef cattle — but the money wasn’t used for that purpose, the complaint says. Some of the money was used to pay for his wife’s credit card ($43,844) and for operational expenses at his “Rancho El Milagro” ($19,090).
Millions of dollars were also transferred by Duarte’s administration to his other company, Financiera, and then to trusts controlled by him and his wife, the complaint says.