Mexico denies drug suspect's allegations

It was the largest seizure of cash in the history of drug enforcement: $207 million, mostly in crisp $100 bills, stuffed into walls, closets and suitcases in the Mexico City home of a Chinese-born businessman.

Mexico denies drug suspect's allegations
It was the largest seizure of cash in the history of drug enforcement: $207 million, mostly in crisp $100 bills, stuffed into walls, closets and suitcases in the Mexico City home of a Chinese-born businessman.

Zhenli Ye Gon told The Associated Press that most of the money belonged to Mexico's ruling party. He said party officials delivered it last summer in duffel bags stuffed with $5 million apiece and threatened to kill him unless he guarded their cash.

In a statement Sunday night, the Mexican government called his tale "a perverse blackmail attempt" aimed at getting himself off on drug, weapons and money-laundering charges and at blunting President Felipe Calderon's war on drugs, which has mobilized the army and extradited a record number of top-level traffickers.

The government says Ye Gon made millions supplying traffickers with the raw material to make a pure, highly addictive form of methamphetamine that has flooded U.S. markets, and said his story "is not only false, it is ridiculous."

The statement from the attorney general's office, which was a response to a letter sent by Zhenli's U.S. lawyer to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said the lawyer demanded special treatment for Ye Gon and suggested he would go public with his accusations against the National Action Party.

"These lawyers are unscrupulously and uselessly seeking to blackmail the Mexican government with absurd and unbelievable accusations, in an attempt to discourage the government from bringing all the weight of the law to bear against Mr. Zhenli Ye Gon," it said.

Eleven people, including several of Ye Gon's relatives, have been charged with drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico.

Ye Gon met with the AP recently at his lawyer's New York office. The 44-year-old calmly recounted his version of events, complete with mysterious guards and blood-chilling threats. Most of his story about his alleged relationship with the ruling party hinges on claims that are hard to prove.

Ye Gon said he had no prior relationship with the National Action Party and has no idea why he was chosen to hold the cash. And the name he gave as his main campaign contact doesn't match that of anyone who worked on Calderon's national campaign team.

Born in Shanghai, Ye Gon migrated to Mexico in 1990 and became a citizen in 2002. He imported textiles, clothing and shoes, and made a fortune as a reseller of commodities seized by Mexican customs.

He founded a pharmaceutical company, Unimed, in 1997. He said he became one of the nation's largest importers of pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in cold medicines that is also used to make methamphetamine. After 2004, however, Ye Gon said he stopped importing pseudoephedrine because of the controls placed on the chemical by the Mexican government.

He said he has never sold illegal drugs and doesn't even know what meth looks like.

Mexico says otherwise. Agents intercepted a ship from China last year that purportedly carried more than 19 tons of pseudoephedrine acetate, all of it illegally imported by Ye Gon, according to the government. Officials say he was building a massive factory in Mexico to process the component into a form usable to traffickers. Mexican labs already supply about 80 percent of the meth in the U.S. market.

Ye Gon said the substance on the ship was another, proprietary chemical used in cold medicines, and that Mexican officials botched the laboratory analysis. He supplied AP with reports from two American chemists, including a former official with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who said the testing procedures were severely flawed.

What isn't in dispute about Ye Gon is that he lived the life of a high roller.

The married Ye Gon squired his mistress around in a Lamborghini. During frequent trips to Las Vegas, he said he bet $150,000 a hand in baccarat, his favorite game. He was such a treasured customer that one of his favorite haunts, The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, gave him a Rolls-Royce.

And no wonder: Between 1997 and 2006, Ye Gon lost nearly $41 million while gambling in the U.S., according to a police affidavit filed in Las Vegas.

Ye Gon's high-rolling ways have been curtailed dramatically since the raid on his home. He said all of his bank accounts, including those in Hong Kong and the U.S., are frozen. He is staying with a friend in the United States but wouldn't say where.

"I don't want to live like that," he said. "I want to make things clear as soon as possible. If the DEA tomorrow asks me, I will go with them, cooperate with them, or FBI, or CIA. I'd like to talk with them."

AP
Last Mod: 02 Temmuz 2007, 12:17
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