Mexico: Ex-Governor Charged with Embezzlement
Federal prosecutors have charged former Tabasco State Gov. Andres Granier with money laundering and embezzling millions from state coffers.
Granier, 65, has spent the last 10 days at a hospital in Mexico City due to chest pains. He was taken into custody on June 14 while being treated, and a judge in Tabasco will determine where he will go next.
Last month boxes containing 88.5 million pesos ($7 million) were found in an office used by former state treasurer Jose Saiz, who served under Garnier. Saiz was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement when he tried to cross the border into the US.
Current Gov. Arturo Nunez accused Garnier of causing Tabasco’s large debt after discovering that $190 million in state funds were unaccounted for.
Nunez’s accusations were strengthened when Granier was recorded bragging about his luxury lifestyle and the number of expensive shoes (400), suits (300) and shirts (1,000) he owned. The 10-part recording about Granier’s extravagant spending was leaked to a local radio station.
“We go to Fifth Avenue and buy a pair of shoes; $600,” said Garnier on one of the recordings. “I took clothes to Miami, I took clothes to Cancún, I took clothes to my house, and I have leftovers.”
Garnier denied the charges and said the claims weren’t true. The day after the recordings were made public, Garnier said he was drunk when he made them in October.
The office that Garnier held pays $92,000 per year after taxes.
Garnier is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The party governed Mexico for 71 years and was often criticized for corruption. The PRI lost the presidency for the fist time in 2000 but returned to power last December.
Garnier joins several former governors and officials who have found themselves under investigation for similar offenses. Former president of the PRI Humberto Moreira and former governor of the state of Aguascalientes, Luis Armando, are being investigated for illegal activity. Former governor of the state of Quintana Roo, Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid, pleaded guilty after being extradited to the US in 2010 to conspiring to launder millions in bribes to ensure free movement of cocaine through his state.
Watchdog groups are getting stronger, opposition parties are raising the issue and challenging the status quo, and the news media is seeking to hold officials accountable.
“There will be more of these because the issue has taken off,” Ricardo Corona, a public finance expert at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, told The New York Times about Garnier’s case. “There is encouragement on the issues of transparency, accountability, access to information.”
Small gains in transparency, as demonstrated through the investigation of Granier, have not translated into justice served, according to experts, as governors are investigated but rarely charged.