By RICARDO CASTILLO
The resignation on Thursday, Oct. 3, of Mexican Supreme Court Judge Eduardo Medina Mora definitely has shaken up the Mexican political system.
The next day, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) told reporters he had received the letter of resignation from Medina Mora and that he “accepted it immediately.”
The Mexican president added that he had followed procedure turning the matter over to the Senate for consideration, or not, of the decision made by Medina Mora. The Senate will vote on the issue on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Then, the resignation will be returned to the AMLO, who will in turn propose a list of three potential candidates. The proposal will be made to the Senate, which in turn will vote for one. If none of the candidates nominated by AMLO is selected, then the president will have free rein to appoint whoever he chooses.
Medina Mora’s decision was made because of a scandal surging around him in which he is being accused of money laundering and an announcement made by Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) of the Treasury Secretariat Director Santiago Nieto Castillo, who disclosed that he is working closely with the British and U.S. governments after they detected unusual money transfers by the judge. Medina Mora is alleged to have deposited $103 million pesos in dollars and Euros through 32 deposits between 2016 and 2018.
Medina Mora was appointed by former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2015. But over the years, Medina Mora has worked for former Mexican Presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón, first as director of the National Center for Investigations (Cisen) and later was attorney general, after which he was appointed as Mexican ambassador to Great Britain and, subsequently, under Peña Nieto, as ambassador to the United States, after which he was appointed Supreme Court judge.
UIF Director Santiago Nieto said that he’s been most unhappy with Medina Mora’s role at the Supreme Court, because he was the mastermind behind a piece of law approved four months ago that ordered the UIF to release frozen bank accounts of funds suspected of having been obtained through drug and human trafficking, as well as corruption.
Peña Nieto on Friday, Oct. 4, announced that, throughout Medina Mora’s mandate, many judges “unblocked” the accounts containing 2 billion pesos, which were immediately moved out of the country.
Nieto Castillo added that he has sued Medina Mora for money laundering and triangulation of funds and alleged: “The judge was protecting persons and groups related to the prior (Peña Nieto) administration. I cannot make the facts public, but we have filed a suit against Medina Mora and, if the Senate accepts his resignation, this will facilitate a lot the war on money laundering in Mexico.”
Last May, Medina Mora proposed a criteria in which, if a request to freeze a banking account comes from abroad, then it has constitutional validity. But if that request comes from within, such as the Financial Intelligence Unit, the possibility is open for a district judge to unfreeze the funds.
This created a division among Mexican district judges since some considered that it was best for society to keep impounded accounts frozen. Many other judges close to Medina Mora ordered the liberation of funds – possibly through a bribe – of people on trial.
Nieto Castillo said that when a judge orders the unfreezing of an account, the holders, be they politicians or traffickers, almost always mmediately withdraw the money.
“Medina Mora’s exit (from the Supreme Court) is going to help Mexico have a better system to combat money laundering in the nation,” Nieto Castillo said.
Nieto Castillo also admits that he has had clashes in his personal relation with Medina Mora ever since he was appointed judge back in 2015.
“The personal appraisal I have,” Peña Castillo told reporters, “is that Medina Mora should have never been a Supreme Court judge. He doesn’t have the ethics nor the juridical knowledge required to be a Supreme Court judge. His appointment was a political decision made on the part of the president and the Senate.”
On other fronts, Medina Mora’s resignation is sending a clear message to literally all those working for the judicial branch of government that corruption will no longer tolerated. In particular, the message is aimed at judges who are releasing proven wrongdoer in exchange for a bribe.
On the political front, Medina Mora has been a sworn enemy of AMLO since 2003, when he staged a scandal against two corrupt members of the then-AMLO administration as Mexico City mayor. AMLO’s personal secretary, René Bejerano, was recorded on video taking a bribe – of which AMLO allegedly knew nothing about – from city contractor Carlos Ahumada. Ahumada also allegedly bribed sociologist Carlos Imaz, back then still husband of current Mexico City Governor Claudia Sheimbaun. Medina Mora made the videos available to broadcasting company Televisa, which made the affair a public scandal. However, damaging both Bejerano and Imaz was not the objective, but Medina Mora, then head of Cisen, was on orders then from President Fox, whose ultimate goal was to put AMLO behind bars. Fox never could achieve that objective, but Medina Mora was apparently behind this scam.
So it came as no surprise that AMLO accepted “immediately” Medina Mora’s resignation.
But again, the Senate will have a say on accepting the resignation or not. In his two paragraph-letter of resignation, Medina Mora did not mention why he was resigning out of his own will. However, Article 98 of the Mexican Constitution states that a Supreme Court judge may resign “only due to a grave cause.”
Medina Mora was scheduled to be in the Supreme Court until 2030 due to retirement, but now his wheel of fortune has made a twisted turn. which may land him in the slammer.
Stay tuned to Pulse News Mexico for more info as this politically hot potato case develops.