A federal judge permanently suspended the arrest warrant issued against former Secretary Rosario Robles, for the crimes of organized crime and money laundering, related to the case of La Estafa Maestra. It is an arrest warrant that the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) obtained since 2020, but never took action to execute it.
It was the FGR itself that on October 31, 2020 asked a federal judge in Almoloya, State of Mexico, to grant the order against the former official, after pointing out her as the leader of an alleged criminal organization composed of former officials under her command, a university and several shell companies, through which hundreds of millions of pesos were diverted, a concerted action to plunder the coffers of the State.
Judge Iván Zeferín Hernández granted the order and gave the green light to the prosecution to complete it and, with it, detonate the process. But the FGR did not. This, despite the fact that the former official was located all the time, because by that time she was already imprisoned in the women’s prison of Santa Martha Acatitla, serving a preventive detention for another accusation for omissions related to the same facts.
Now the order can no longer be executed because the defense of Robles processed an amparo against the legality of the same and the accusation of organized crime, and managed to get the 14th District Court in Matters of Criminal Amparo of Mexico City to definitively suspend the execution of the order.
Political Animal asked the prosecutor’s office for a position on why his agents never showed up at the prison to comply with the order in this case, but until the closing of the edition no response was received.
Executing this order is not a mere formality, although the former official was physically detained. Experts explain that the fact that the order was not officially notified to the former head of Sedesol and Sedatu prevented the initial hearing from being scheduled, the evidence from being analyzed and the criminal process from moving forward. In short: that there would be a trial in this case.
“There is no justification for not having executed that order, they had months to do so. What can be seen here is that there was negligence or in his case irregular settlement (…) We believe that the case should be investigated and determined if this is part of any agreement that may lead to the commission of the crime,” says lawyer Estefanía Medina, co-founder of the Tojil organization, which filed the original criminal complaint that led to the opening of the investigations.
Robles’ defense, for its part, maintains that the FGR has acted from the beginning illegally in this case and “violating the human rights” of its represented, since it tried to promote a separate process for serious crimes, which has to do with the same facts for which it is being prosecuted since before.
“They carried out this process to obtain this arrest warrant that from the beginning had no reason to exist because she was never removed from the action of justice. She was already detained, it was a notorious fact. But they wanted that order to keep her as the sword of Damocles in case she got her freedom. From our point of view, it was a measure of pressure that they had for months, but that has already been distorted,” lawyer José Garrigós, defender of the former official, said in an interview.
Robles is serving three years in pretrial detention this week, a precautionary measure that was imposed on him after voluntarily appearing at the initial hearings on the charges of omissions that were originally imputed to him. It is a criminal process that has already lasted longer than the law establishes (two years maximum of preventive detention), and that has been trapped between the amparos that the former official has won against that precautionary measure and the insistence of the prosecutor’s office and the judges that she remain in prison. These debates have meant that this case cannot advance to the trial phase either.
The indictment of organized crime
According to the investigation of the FGR presented before Judge Zeferín Hernández, and which gave way to criminal case 400/2020 and the aforementioned unfilled arrest warrant, between 2013 and 2018, Robles, taking advantage of his positions as head of Sedesol and Sedatu, “operated a criminal organization, whose members permanently and repeatedly deployed behaviors tending to commit crimes in terms of operations with products of illicit origin.”
According to prosecutors, the criminal organization led by Robles managed, through the manipulation of the law and the complicity of other officials and individuals, tosend 5 thousand 073 million 358 thousand 846 pesos through 20 general agreements and 44 specific agreements signed with universities and public institutions.
The criminal structure to commit this millionaire fraud was composed of three groups: the first by public servants from Sedesol and Sedatu; the second group, made up of officials from universities and state public bodies, and the third, made up of partners, shareholders and/or representatives of the front companies where the resources originally ended.
The mechanism, documented at the time in the report of “La Estafa Maestra”, consisted of the fact that, taking advantage of the exception contemplated by the Procurement Law to deliver resources from the budget without bidding to public bodies, the aforementioned agencies pretended to need certain services, signed agreements with the colluded universities and when they received the resources they illegally triangulated them to subcontracted shell companies.
In the case sent to Judge Zeferín Hernández, prosecutors selected and documented one of the agreements signed with the Autonomous University of Morelos that, according to previous analyses made by the Superior Audit Office of the Federation (ASF), ended up generating a bankruptcy of just over 77 million pesos.
Those involved in this specific case and against whom arrest warrants were requested and issued for organized crime and money laundering are, on the side of the federal agencies, Rosario Robles, former head of Sedesol and Sedatu, and Simón Pedro León Mojarro, former federal coordinator of delegations. On the side of the university, Alejandro Vera Jiménez, who was the rector; Wistano Luis Orozco, former director of companies and services, and Gerardo Ávila García, former secretary of the rectory.
Regarding the companies involved, orders were issued against Esteban Cervantes, shareholder of ESGER Servicios y Construcciones; Gianni Obed Hernández Torres, partner of Grupo Industrial y Servicios YAFED, SA de CV, and Luis Antonio Valenciano, presenter of Inmobiliaria Feyray.
According to judicial authorities, four of those arrest warrants have been completed so far, but only for those involved with a lower profile. One of them is Antonio Valenciano, against whom the FGR has already presented the formal accusation after the complementary investigation phase and has asked the judge to sentence him to 35 years in prison without entitlement to any benefit.
According to the same investigation by the prosecutor’s office, there are other former federal public servants involved in these events, including the former senior officer of Sedesol and Sedatu, Emilio Zebadúa. However, no action has been taken against them as they have been treated as cooperating witnesses.
The case does not hold up: defense
Robles’ lawyers believe that the accusations of organized crime presented by the FGR and an eventual process against him are not supported by two central arguments. The first has to do with the violation of the presumption of innocence of the former official, which has already been confirmed by a federal court and where the main responsible has been the prosecutor, Alejandro Gertz.
The second point, which the litigants consider the central one, has to do with the fact that the facts that are imputed to the former Secretary of State in this accusation are exactly the same as in the process that had already been opened previously for alleged omissions. That is, the signing of the agreements that gave way to the alleged bankruptcy of more than 5 billion pesos.
“What we are asking the amparo judge is not only to pronounce on the arrest warrant, which has already been distorted, but to go to the bottom of the issue because no person can be tried twice for the same facts and the same behaviors, which have to do with the so-called Master Scam. It is the same investigation and, in any case, it would have to be all part of the same process,” says lawyer José Garrigós.
The litigants also claim that their defendant is not guilty of the facts they accuse him of. They explained that they have already reviewed the thousand 800 pages that make up the investigation folder sent to the amparo judge, which they describe as a “compendium of sayings and assumptions,” where there is no material evidence that the former official has committed an illegal act.
They insist that the payments made by the agencies that Robles headed were made under a provision established in the law that even today, to date, prevails. “That is why we believe that this should be resolved through amparo because here we are facing facts that, if irregularities are verified, would have to go through an administrative issue, even by disqualifications if it is the case, but not by criminal means,” adds Garrigós.
The The litigant recalls that both the Secretariat of the Public Function (SFP) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) and the FGR have already investigated the economic environment of the former official without finding income, property or inexplicable wealth.
Three years and nothing
On August 13, 2019, a federal judge ordered that Robles be imprisoned preventively, while the criminal proceedings against her for alleged omissions that facilitated the deviations that occurred in her agency were developed and concluded. A preventive detention that, by law, should not have lasted more than two years, but that this week will already reach three.
The process has been trapped in two parts: on the one hand, the appeals that the defense has presented against the precautionary measure that was imposed on him, mainly amparos, where various irregularities in the arguments and evidence that gave rise to his imprisonment have been confirmed. However, both the prosecutor’s office and the judges responsible for the process have insisted on maintaining the preventive detention against the former official.
Now, the preventive detention of Robles will be analyzed by a special court that, on the instructions of the president of the Council of the Federal Judiciary, Minister Arturo Zaldívar, will review the cases in which it is presumed that there has been an abuse of the aforementioned precautionary measure.
And the other reason that has stopped the eventual trial against the official has to do with an amparo promoted by her lawyers in which they allege that the charges against her are already repealed and, therefore, the process has to be archived. This appeal is under review by a collegiate court.
For the lawyer Estefanía Medina, the fact that this case reaches three years without a greater advance is another example of what she considers a “deficient and disappointing” work of the current administration of the FGR, where what has been privileged is the mere imprisonment as a synonym of supposed justice, having remained in words the promise of the prosecutor Gertz to undertake a great investigation for this case.
“This case and in general all the investigations related not only to La Estafa Maestra but the great cases of corruption have turned out to be a complete disappointment in the legal field, proving once again that the fight against corruption has remained in words and not actions. Perhaps the darkest era of law enforcement in the last 20 years of our country. A setback that will be very difficult to go back to the future if there is no change of leadership and urgent strategy, “says Medina.
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