La prensa

Hank Rohn case has all of Mexico talking

Created: 10 June, 2011
Updated: 13 September, 2023
5 min read

Hank Rohn in better days when competing for governor of Baja. Photo by David Maung

    16 military units with 50 soldiers aboard, was the convoy needed to escort businessman and politician Jorge Hank Rhon to the 9th district court, where he was formally charged with having a large number of prohibited weapons in his possession.

    Outside, a small number of supporters waited for him and screamed “Hank, Hank, Hank”.

    He was wearing a light gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, —what Mexican inmates wear—. His hands cuffed and head down, he didn´t even raise his head to look back at the crowd.

    Hank and ten other men were arrested Saturday June 4th and flown to Mexico City, returning just a day later to enter El Hongo, the local jail in Tijuana, located near the city of Tecate.

    Federal authorities (PGR) confirmed that Hank faces such charges after it was determined by investigators that out of the 88 weapons seized in his home, just 10 had the proper permits.

    Out of the rest, 49 are prohibited for use and purchase by anyone other than the Mexican army. During the arrest and seizure, 9,000 rounds of ammo was also found; 8,000 of them for use on high caliber weapons.

    The rest of those arrested, all men —Hank´s bodyguards and security personnel—, are facing minor charges of gun possession.

    Just a week before, no one, —including those arrested and Mexicans in general— would have imagined such a scenario; an odd and polemic millionaire, member of a family with immense political power and he himself a member of the ruling class considered “untouchable” arrested in the middle of the night, publicly exhibited and accused of a serious crime facing 10 to 15 years in jail.

Article - Uber

            The way he was detained has been the same process used in thousands of arrests across Mexico under the Calderon administration: Soldiers arrest someone without a warrant claiming they: a) arrested him while he committed a crime or b) received an anonymous call. Either way, the military then “follow up” on the case and enter homes without a search warrant and arrest individuals without judges’ orders.

   On the other hand, Hank´s detention was a different story and not the same that is experienced by any other Mexican.

   Just two days after being arrested his family was allowed to return to their home, his wife  Maria Elvia Amaya de Hank and one of his 19 children were allowed to witness the authorities search inside their home.

   Hank was visited by Human Rights Commission representatives and a claim was immediately filed documenting a series of irregularities in his arrest.

   Those things don’t usually happen to average Joes in Mexico, where their rights are violated.

   Over six thousand people marched on that following Monday asking President Felipe Calderón to free Hank and his arrest has created a national debate over the motivation and legal principles of his arrest.

   There´s been talk about “friendly fire” coming from inside his own party PRI; a vengeance against him because he is close to presidential hopeful Peña Nieto and many other political motivation behind his arrests. None of the claims have been proven or backed by facts.

   Motivation aside, even Hank´s detractors are questioning the Army´s and PGR actions.

Article - Uber

   None of them claim Hank is incapable of having committed the crime (or any other crime) he is being accused off, in fact, political analyst Federico Reyes Heroles said in a recent column “he should in fact be un-defendable”, yet the question is this: If federal and international authorities have a solid case against him, for weapons or any other charge, why wasn’t the arrest done with a search and arrest warrant?

   A column by Manuel Ajenjo from The Economist asks another question that is currently in the air; Why Hank and Why now?

The claims have been many

   Tijuana´s former mayor, owner of the biggest Casino empire in Mexico, a racetrack and Tijuana´s soccer team, —with an amazing winning streak this year—, is in no way a foreigner of scandal and legal battles.

   In 1991 he was arrested at Mexico City Airport accused of contraband of protected species and federal authorities in the US have launched a few investigations against him. Yet he has never been formally charged or put on trial.

   He is believed to be the one who ordered the murder of Héctor Félix Miranda, “El Gato Felix” a founding member of weekly newspaper Zeta. His head of security at the time, Antonio Vera Palestina was charged with the murder and is currently in jail.

   Vera Palestina´s son, Jorge Vera “El Verita” is his current head of security. Yet no one knows his whereabouts since the night of Hank´s arrest.

   Two weeks prior to Hank´s arrest, a wikileaks document was published. In the document, then US consul Donald Kramer describes Hank as a drug-trafficker and corrupt mayor.

Article - Uber

   The consul goes into detail of an incident on April 2009, when Baja California State Police agents were arresting a man with a US warrant when he visited the consulate to do some paperwork.

   According to Kramer, the man discovered their intentions and quickly got into a car that went into Hank´s property. The police stopped the half-hearted chase.

   That same year, Zeta published the fact Hank lost his US visa, when a CBP officer at San Ysidro looked at his file and said “too many suspicions”, and proceeded to break the visa in half.

   It is yet unclear what the outcome of this new legal battle will be.

   He is scheduled to appear in court next Tuesday, June 14th, where his army of lawyers will confront whatever the prosecutors in the case can show as evidence against him.

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