TIJUANA – Federal police detained on Sunday four people at the city’s international airport for allegedly smuggling 20 exotic birds, among them toucans and hawks, announced Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office.
The agency, known as the PGR, has not yet identified the suspects. However, sources in the department said they were bodyguards of former mayor Jorge Hank Rhon.
According to the sources, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak for the agency, a private plane arrived Sunday with the birds without the necessary documents. They apparently were destined for Hank’s private zoo located at the Caliente racetrack.
When the bodyguards attempted to pick up the birds they were detained, the sources said.
A spokesman for the PGR in Tijuana said the four people and the birds were sent to the agency’s office in the Río zone, where their legal status will be determined.
Hank Rhon is president of a gambling empire and one of his sons owns the professional soccer team Xolitzcuintes, which plays in Mexico's top league.
It’s not the first time Hank Rhon is linked to this type of problem.
He was detained on May 2, 1996 at Mexico City’s international airport when customs agents found he had not declared ocelot furs, ivory carvings and vests adorned with precious stones. He was freed because the goods were supposedly fake.
Five years earlier, U.S. authorities fined him $25,000 when he was found to be traveling with a Siberian tiger cub.
Last summer, he was arrested one night in his luxury home and accused of illegally possessing firearms, including two linked to murders in Tijuana, and explosives.
A federal judge dismissed the charges against him, however, when she ruled that the military had illegally entered the mansion.