The United States has said it will return money and assets confiscated from a convicted former senior Mexican state official that were worth over $246 million, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday.
Hector Villarreal, a former finance minister for the northern border state of Coahuila, in 2014 pleaded guilty in Texas to money laundering after being charged with using his position to take out nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in fraudulent loans and laundering the funds in Texas and Bermuda.
The U.S. Justice Department this week notified Mexico’s attorney general’s office that it had accepted a request from the Mexican government to recover the assets, which Lopez Obrador said were worth more than $246 million.
“They sent a formal document to the attorney general that they’ll return the money,” the president said, before noting it was not yet clear whether Mexico would get all or some of the total sum.
Lopez Obrador told a news conference he wanted some of the money to go to programs focused on preventing drug consumption.
Villarreal, who served under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was ultimately convicted in Texas of money laundering.
He was an ally of Jorge Torres, who in 2011 was PRI interim governor of Coahuila and later admitted to money laundering.
Coahuila, which borders Texas, is scheduled to elect a new governor in June. It is still governed by the PRI.
Despite scandals, the PRI has never lost an election in the state. Lopez Obrador is hoping his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) can change that, but opinion polls suggest the party is facing an uphill struggle due to internal splits.
Source: El Financiero