Mexican Official Flies With $1.9M in Luggage
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A Mexican state official was detained as he got off a government-owned plane with $1.9 million crammed into a briefcase and a backpack, prosecutors announced Monday, touching off allegations of campaign finance violations tied to the upcoming presidential election.
Tomas Ruiz, treasury secretary for Veracruz state, said there was nothing illicit about the money the official was carrying. He said the cash, from state coffers, was destined for a Mexico City advertising firm that agreed to promote festivals to attract tourists to the eastern coastal state, including a well-known carnival in the port city of Veracruz.
Ruiz said the Veracruz government had state official Miguel Morales Robles carry the cash payment on a special flight to Toluca airport outside Mexico City because the advertising work needed to be delivered quickly.
The Democratic Revolution Party, one of the PRI’s two main competitors, charged that the money was meant to fuel a secret advertising budget for PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto.
The PRI has made strenuous efforts to rebrand itself as a law-abiding and transparent party that has left behind the legacy of corruption that marked much of its seven decades of autocratic rule, which ended with the 2000 presidential election.
Mexico has strict limits on the amounts of money that can be spent on political campaigns - the PRI’s presidential candidate will be limited to spending 495 million pesos ($38.4 million) for the entire campaign.
Prosecutors wouldn’t say if the money from Veracruz could possibly be linked to drug trafficking.
President Felipe Calderon last fall said that Veracruz, a state racked by drug violence, had been left in the hands of the Zetas drug cartel before he sent federal troops to restore order.