TIJUANA – Controversial former mayor Jorge Hank Rhon spent part of Friday on his Facebook page thanking his supporters for standing by him after he was detained in June and accused with ten others of stockpiling weapons.
Late Thursday, Mexico City federal judge Alejandro Rodríguez rejected the evidence the Attorney General’s Office (known as the PGR) had presented against Hank in its appeal of the ruling that had freed the gambling magnate and the others after ten days in custody.
In that decision, federal judge Blanca Evelia Parra ruled that defense attorneys had proven that the detention had occurred “in hours and circumstances different from what the Mexican army had reported.”
Thursday’s ruling appears to end the federal case against Hank, a case that riveted the attention of Mexicans on both sides of the border, and left unsettling questions about the performance of
federal authorities, including the military, in the pursuit of justice.
The federal case against Hank, 55, was based on the military’s report of the events that led to his detention around dawn on June 4 at his mansion in the neighborhood near the Caliente racetrack, which he owns.
In the report, the PGR said that army soldiers, acting on an anonymous tip, detained two armed men at a Tijuana hotel who told them that there were weapons at a house near the racetrack.
The house turned out to belong to Hank, one of Mexico’s wealthiest people and one of its most controversial. The soldiers raided the house without a judicial order because they observed people inside who were armed and who had tried to hide, according to the PGR.
The soldiers arrested ten people at the house, including Hank, and confiscated 88 weapons – 78 of them authorized only for use by the Mexican military) and nearly 10,000 rounds.
Two of the weapons (a .40 mm and .38 mm pistols), according to the PGR, were used in two murders that occurred in Tijuana.
The Baja California Attorney General provided details of those murders, identifying the victims as
Martín Feliciano Camacho (killed June 28, 2010) and Olegario Figueroa (killed Dec. 16, 2009), both murdered in the city’s tourist and business sector, the Río zone.
In the days after Hank’s detention his wife, María Elvia Amaya, said publicly that there were weapons in the house. And Hank himself, in a letter he wrote and signed while being held, said the military had photographed him with an arsenal at his house. (After his release, he said he did not remember writing the letter.)
For its part, Hank’s defense attorneys alleged that the weapons found at the mansion had been planted.
In a press conference June 20, Hank was asked to describe what happened at his house the dawn he was detained. His response, “my (mental) cassette tape has been erased.”
His defense team had presented as its main evidence a series of videos that showed how the military arrived and searched the house. These videos proved conclusive for Judge Parra as well as appeals Judge Rodríguez, according to their rulings.
In a statement explaining their decisions, the judges said that the videos disagreed with the report filed by the PGR, which never proved its assertion that the videos had been manipulated by the defense.
When Hank was released on June 14 from the medium-security state prison in Tecate, Baja California Attorney General Rommel Moreno immediately detained him on a new charge.
Moreno said that a protected witness had told state authorities that Hank had ordered killed Angélica María Muñoz Cervantes, 24 años, who was romantically involved with Sergio Hank Krauss, Hank’s son, and who died on Aug. 13, 2009.
The new charge heightened suspicions that state and federal authorities, both appointed by National Action Party administrations, were obsessed with prosecuting Hank, a powerful member of the PRI party, which ruled Mexico for seven decades. Once more, a judge ruled that Hank’s detention on the new charge was improper and he was immediately freed.
In various public appearances since then, Moreno has been asked about the status of the murder investigation against Hank. He has said nothing other than to say it’s an on-going investigation.