July 04, 2007

Report: Accused Drug Suspect With $200m in House "Couldn't Get Small Change"

El Diario Rant


MEXICO CITY -- Attorneys for Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman facing drug charges related to his alleged illicit importation of psuedoephedrine, said yesterday an immense hoard of cash found in Mr Zhenli's home resulted from his "continued and complete failure to get any small change" in Mexico.

Federal agents reportedly found a total of US$205 million in cash plus US$22 million in assorted currencies and traveler's checks in Mr Zhenli's home, located in a well-to-do section of Mexico City. However, Mr Zhenli's attorneys said the cache resulted from a years-long struggle with bureaux de change in Mexico, in which Mr Zhenli attempted vainly to get 20 and 50 peso notes, plus coinage, for small purchases.

"Despite Señor Zhenli's success as the owner of a pharmaceuticals company, receipts from his dealings with local banks and currency-exchange parlors show his financial dealings became increasingly desperate over the past several months," attorney Juan Abogado said. "For instance, on Feb. 6, Señor Zhenli tried to buy US$10,000 worth of small-peso notes at a local change house to buy groceries, cigarettes and other sundry items. At the window, he received 107 1,000 peso notes and three 200 peso notes, with the cashier promising to 'make up the difference tomorrow.' On Feb. 18, when Señor Zhenli cashed in some traveler's checks, the cashier handed him a stack of 500 peso notes, leaving Señor Zhenli unable to buy so much as an horchata at a nearby cafe."

"This man is clearly a victim of a failed currency-distribution policy," Abogado said, adding that Zhenli, bereft of 20 peso notes, had not been able to buy deodorant in four months. "The reason he had all this cash at his home was that he simply couldn't spend it."

Mr Zhenli, according to the International Herald Tribune, "rocked the political world here by suggesting, through his lawyer in New York, that the labor secretary, Javier Lozano Alarcon, had threatened him last year if Mr Zhenli told anyone about Mr Alarcon's secret stash of 20 peso notes and small coins held in Mr Alarcon's office safe."

On Tuesday, the IHT reported, Secretary Alarcon called the charges "false, absurd, untrue, crooked and perverse."

"It's absolutely ridiculous for Señor Zhenli to suggest, as he does, that I have a 'two meter high' stack of 20 peso notes plus myriad small change in my office safe," Secretary Alarcon said. "I haven't seen a 20 peso note in about three weeks, much less a stack of them. As for the small change bit, the idea that I or anyone else in Mexico has seen a five centavo or ten centavo coin in recent memory is so ludicrous as to be laughable."

"I did find this five-peso coin in my sofa cushions though," Secretary Alarcon said cheerfully as the assembled reporters oooohed and ahhhhed. "I'm going to buy a Fanta!"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at July 4, 2007 10:56 PM | TrackBack
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