US sanctions ex-governor of Mexico's Nayarit state, judge

May 17, 2019 - 5:23 pm

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions Friday on a Mexican former governor already under suspicion in his home state of Nayarit, along with a Mexican judge, under corruption and narcotics statutes for purported drug cartel ties.

The department alleged that ex-Gov. Roberto Sandoval Castañeda engaged in corrupt acts such as "misappropriation of state assets" and receiving bribes from cartels including Jalisco New Generation.

A Treasury statement added that magistrate judge Isidro Avelar Gutiérrez accepted money from Jalisco New Generation and another group known as Los Cuinis in return for rulings favoring them.

Treasury also designated numerous business and individuals linked to drug trafficking, the judge or Sandoval, including the ex-governor's wife, adult daughter and adult son.

The Associated Press requested comment from Sandoval's lawyer, but there was no immediate response. In a statement Sandoval posted to Twitter, he said he had governed in accordance with the law, promised to cooperate with authorities and expressed certainty that the matter would be cleared up.

"I very much regret the unfortunate moment that we are going through as a family, but my faith in God and patience to overcome obstacles with strength, reaffirm the surety of what I AM, what I IDID and what I DID NOT DO!!" He added that he would not comment further on advice of his lawyers.

Sandoval was governor of Nayarit from 2011 to 2017 and mayor of its capital, Tepic, from 2008 to 2011. The small Pacific coast state borders Jalisco which is the home base of New Generation, one of the most powerful and brazen cartels in Mexico.

In February 2018, Nayarit lawmakers opened a political trial against the ex-governor on allegations including misusing public resources and illicit enrichment.

In a statement days later he vowed to prove his assets were legally obtained, tweeting, "WITH FAITH AND PATIENCE TIME CLARIFIES ALL THINGS!"

Last September the state congress approved a measure barring Sandoval from holding public office in Nayarit for nearly 13 years.

Sandoval was sanctioned by Treasury under the Magnitsky Act, which targets corruption, and the judge was designated under the Kingpin Act, which targets drug trafficking.

The designations bar U.S. transactions involving the interests or property of all those named.

"These and other corrupt officials will face serious consequences including being cut off from the U.S. financial system," Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at Treasury, said in the statement.

In March 2017 the then-attorney general of Nayarit from Sandoval's Institutional Revolutionary Party was arrested in the United States on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines between January 2013 and the month prior to his detention. The official was said to be linked to the Beltrán Leyva brothers' cartel.

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