Thursday, July 7

FGR: Tomás Zerón hired ghost companies in charge of the secret game

Tomás Zerón, during a press conference at the PGR, in November 2014.
Tomás Zerón, during a press conference at the PGR, in November 2014.Diego Simón Sánchez / Cuartoscuro

During the management of Tomás Zerón de Lucio as director of the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) in the defunct Attorney General’s Office (PGR), contracts for 10 million pesos (about 500,000 dollars) were awarded to two firms that later ended in the list of ghost companies prepared by the SAT. One of the contracts was with a company that supposedly produced a video showing the “intelligence” work done by the Mexican Government during the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto to find the whereabouts of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, then leader of the Sinaloa cartel. . The resources assigned to the firm came from item 33701 of the budget that is used for national security expenses that are not transparent by the authorities. The irregularities found in part of the expenses incurred in this item during Zerón’s administration are the reason for one of the investigations being carried out by the current Attorney General’s Office (FGR) against the former official who is a fugitive.

The Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) was created in September 2013 during the Peña Nieto government as a body that would concentrate in a single body the tasks of intelligence and criminal information, investigation and expert services. The objective of the AIC would be “to increase the capacity of investigation and generation of intelligence for the investigation of crimes in the institution,” the then PGR highlighted in a work report. The agency added to its structure the Federal Ministerial Police, the General Coordination of Expert Services and the National Center for Planning, Analysis and Information to Combat Crime (Cenapi), which remained under its command. Zerón de Lucio was appointed to head the AIC, who was in office until September 2016, when he was forced to resign due to the accusations of the parents of the Ayotzinapa normalistas, who accused him of manipulating the evidence in the investigation of the case. Sources from the Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that there are ongoing investigations against Tomás Zerón that involve the use of front companies, but indicated that no further details can be given in this regard because due process would be affected.

In the three years that Zerón was in charge of the AIC, the agency had an approved budget of 407 million pesos charged to items 33701 and 55102, but ended up spending 1,529 million pesos, according to data from the Ministry of Finance. It is now known that a large part of those resources labeled in the secret security games were used in an irregular way. In September of last year, the prosecutor Alejandro Gertz Manero accused Zerón of having stolen more than 1,000 million pesos from the PGR budget as a “payment for his infamies” in the Ayotzinapa case and with the consent of their superiors. For this matter, the Prosecutor’s Office obtained from a judge two arrest warrants against Zerón for the crimes of improper exercise of public service, embezzlement and equal fraud, according to what he announced. Political Animal last november. The Prosecutor’s Office investigates the alleged diversion of 1,102 million pesos through three supposedly “rigged” contracts for the acquisition of espionage equipment charged to the item of public and national security expenses, the portal detailed in a report.

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Now EL PAÍS announces that to these irregular contracts are added others for an amount of 10 million pesos that ended up in two paper firms. With the resources assigned to the security items, contracts for four million pesos were awarded to EBS Solde Organización and payments for six million pesos were also made to Asociados y Consorcio Corporativo SA de CV, according to information provided by the Prosecutor’s Office itself. data provided by the SAT. The contracts signed with these companies were not transparent because they were part of the expenses made by the FGR in its security tasks and that imply “secrecy”. In the case of EBS Solde Organización, the FGR said it had found only one contract with this company for 580,000 pesos, despite the fact that the SAT has records of invoices issued for four million pesos. The contract, as the FGR responded after a request for information made by this medium, was for the “production and post-production service of the video of the intelligence work related to the arrest of Joaquín Guzmán Loera.” In the case of Asociados y Consorcio Corporativo SA de CV, he did not want to provide details of the hiring, but in the files of the transparency committee of the then PGR there is a trace that six million pesos were awarded under item 33701.

EBS Solde Organización is a company incorporated in Monterrey, Nuevo León, on March 15, 2013 with such a diverse corporate purpose that ranges from the operation of geosatelite tracking and location systems to the sale of agricultural products and food packaging. It also offers advice and consultancies on fiscal and environmental matters, according to the articles of incorporation consulted in the Public Registry of Commerce. In its commercial history, it has contracts with various municipalities of Nuevo León. The firm Asociados y Consorcio Corporativo SA de CV was also incorporated in March 2013 and was dissolved five years later in a meeting. The company established in Chiapas was accused in that entity of having received contracts to teach courses of emotional restraint that it never did. A group of employees of the Women’s Empowerment Secretariat denounced in 2016 to a local media that the workshops were simulated and that the staff was forced to take photographs to justify the alleged training. Both companies were included in the list of companies that invoice simulated SAT operations.

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Unjustified expenses

A part of the 1,529 million pesos labeled in items 33701 and 55102 – assigned to the various instances that were part of the agency commanded by Zerón – were spent poorly and without adhering to the criteria of risk, urgency and confidentiality, such as its use was conditioned, according to various reports from the Internal Control Body of the Prosecutor’s Office. In an audit carried out in 2015 to the National Center for Planning, Analysis and Information to Combat Crime (Cenapi), control and supervision deficiencies were found. The report indicates that in October 2014, Cenapi signed a contract for 71.4 million pesos with the supplier Vans y Subs de Lujo SA de CV for the acquisition of 24 vehicles that would be used in tactical activities. However, when the delivery deadline was met, the supplier only provided four units that were charged to item 55102 (security equipment), in breach of the terms agreed in the contract.

In another 2015 audit carried out to the Federal Ministerial Police, a lack of supporting documentation and unjustified expenses were detected under item 33701. The entity did not have the documentation that justified and verified the expense granted for 23.3 million pesos, referring to travel expenses, stays and research expenses provided to public servants during 2014. “The controls of resources carried out by the Federal Ministerial Police lack precision and reliability,” it stands out. In addition, the officials did not present the official notice of the commission, investigation or special activity to be carried out. It was also found that resources not considered in item 33701 were exercised and therefore did not derive from special activities that implied risk, urgency or confidentiality. “This generates omissions to the applicable regulations, leading to a lack of transparency in the exercise of the budget assigned for this purpose,” the auditors ruled.

In another audit also made to the Federal Ministerial Police, irregularities were found in the vehicle fleet, since in a physical verification 31 units were not located. In the General Coordination of Expert Services, the auditors found that there were 72 goods that were acquired and received in December 2013 and that by September 2015 – when the audit was carried out – they were packed and unused. The acquisition of these inputs had a cost of 46.3 million pesos and had been required for the creation of four regional forensic genetics laboratories that had not been built.

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The misuse of this item in another unit of the defunct PGR is the subject of an investigation. In July of last year, EL PAÍS announced that the current Prosecutor’s Office headed by Gertz Manero is investigating the Internal Affairs division, formally known as the General Inspection, because between 2013 and 2014 it left 102 million pesos of an item for matters of safety. Although the use of these funds is reserved in nature because they are used for investigations or payments to informants, officials must justify their use internally by means of a detailed record, which was not done adequately. In addition, the FGR investigators detected strange movements in the entry and exit of money from the Internal Affairs accounts and concluded that it was not possible to know if the expenses were applied or not in investigations of the General Office.

Javier Oliva Posada, a researcher at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the UNAM, highlights that within the security expenses there are items that are very difficult to make transparent because this could put the lives of police officers at risk. “The issue of the dimensions of national security is extremely complex from administrative perspectives. For this reason, in some aspects, transparency could be subject to the exception depending on the subject, ”the academic mentions. One solution to ensure that these funds are properly audited is to have agencies external to the security areas, such as educational institutions, that assist in the audit and supervision of the correct exercise of these items. The national security expert mentions that it is also very common for the budget exercised to end up being higher than the approved one because in security matters, situations that arise unexpectedly and that need to be addressed cannot be foreseen. “This also happens very frequently in the acquisitions committee of the US Congress, for example, where there are budget adjustments to national security issues,” he says.

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