Why hasn't the U.S. extradited these big-money Mexican fugitives?

illustration by Victor Abarca

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government has faced a recent wave of criticism for failing to extradite drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States before he tunneled to freedom last month.

But Mexico isn't the only one that's being uncooperative. Although the U.S. and Mexico share an extradition treaty, there’s often a lack of reciprocity when it comes to handing over prisoners — something former Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam lamented publicly in 2013.


According to Mexican authorities, the U.S. has failed to expedite and process at least four extradition requests for Mexican nationals, including one businessman who has been in U.S. custody for more than seven years. All four men are accused of white collar crimes back home.

Here’s a look at the four high-profile Mexican fugitives living in the United States, three of whom appear to be hiding in plain sight.

Gastón Azcárraga, former owner of Mexican airline Mexicana de Aviación 


Azcarrága is accused of money-laundering, defrauding investors and misleading Mexican authorities by presenting false information in a 2013 - 2014 investigation about the bankruptcy of national airline Mexicana de Aviación. He's blamed for causing shareholders to lose millions of dollars, and forcing thousands of Mexicans into unemployment when the company went belly up.

In April of last year the businessman was briefly detained in New York on a Mexican arrest order issued through Interpol. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly released Azcarrága with instructions for him to periodically report to immigration authorities to inform about his whereabouts in the U.S.


A spokesman from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Fusion the agency had no information on the matter and nothing to do with the cases of the Mexican fugitives.

Mexican media reported that Azcárrga is now requesting political asylum in the U.S. and is awaiting an immigration trial, which has allegedly delayed his extradition proceedings.


Fusion reached out to Azcárraga’s legal counsel Mr. Alonso Aguilar Zinser in Mexico City via phone and email but did not receive a response.

Martín Díaz Álvarez, associate of maritime engineering company Oceanografía


Díaz is accused of defrauding Citigroup’s Mexican branch Banamex, the second largest bank in the country. Last year the businessman allegedly asked Banamex for multimillion-dollar credit line by presenting false documentation.

The Mexican Attorney General’s Office accused Díaz of being one of firm's associates who swindled Banamex out of approximately $400 million. He's also reportedly being investigated on suspicion of using a network of gas stations to launder money for organized crime.


Authorities said Díaz managed to evade Mexican justice by traveling to the United States. He reportedly resides in Miami. Last September the Mexican Attorney General’s Office confirmed it had filed an extradition request.

Fusion reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice to inquire about Mr. Díaz and got the following response from Public Affairs Specialist Peter Carr: “As a matter of policy, we generally do not comment on extradition matters, including whether a foreign government has submitted an extradition request."


Fusion also reached out to the Mexico City branch of the International Law Firm White & Case, which reportedly counseled Díaz and Oceanografía, but did not receive a response.

Rafael Olvera Amezcua, main shareholder of financial services company Ficrea


Ficrea, a financial services company, is accused of orchestrating a massive fraud against thousands of Mexicans who entrusted the firm with their life savings. The scheme was exposed last November when Mexico’s financial authority started investigating the company for money laundering. The fraud was allegedly spearheaded by its main shareholder, Rafael Olvera Amezcua, who is wanted on charges of money laundering and organized crime.

The Mexican Attorney General’s office said Amezcua fled to the United States last year. Today, Amezcua remains at large and reportedly has real estate property in Florida. In January of this year the Mexican Attorney General’s office announced it had filed an extradition request.


Fusion was unable to contact Amezcua or his lawyer. According to an HR ratings report, Amezcua is the main shareholder of a company known as Leadman Trade, which reportedly has offices in Miami, but Fusion could not find public contact information for the company.

Others are also baffled about who represents Amezcua. “It’s a mystery who heads the defense of Mr. Amezcua,” said lawyer Edward Martín Regalado, who is heading a civil lawsuit against the businessman in Mexico.


Zhenli Ye Gon, pharmaceutical executive


In March 2007, this businessman's opulent mansion was raided by authorities who conducted one of the biggest drug-money busts in history. According to authorities, they seized approximately $207 million, 18 million pesos, 200,000 euros, and other currencies along with automatic weapons.

The Chinese businessman, who was granted the Mexican nationality in 2002, was accused by the Mexican government of trafficking methamphetamine precursor chemicals and having business ties to the Sinaloa cartel.


At the time of the 2007 raid, Ye Gon was reportedly in the United States. In July of that year he was detained by DEA agents in Maryland. Mexico filed an extradition request, and the process began in September 2008. Ye Gon has now spent more than seven years in U.S. custody, though Mexico is hopeful he'll be extradited soon. Ye Gon would stand trial in Mexico on charges of organized crime, drug offenses, unlawful possession of firearms, and money laundering.

“Mr. Ye Gon entered the U.S. legally. Based on the United Nations Special Rapporteur's recent Special Report, as well as other authorities, we believe extraditing Mr. Ye Gon would violate the UN Convention Against Torture,” defense counsel Gregory S. Smith told Fusion in an email.


Smith said all charges against Ye Gon in the U.S. were dismissed with prejudice after several witnesses recanted and U.S. prosecutors expressed evidentiary concerns. In November 2007, the U.S. government charged Mr. Ye Gon with a single count of “conspiring to aid and abet the manufacture of 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, knowing that it was to be imported into the United States from Mexico,” according to a court document dated July 17 2014 Case No. 7:11-cv-00575. In 2009 the U.S. government dismissed all charges without prejudice.

The extradition case is ongoing, but maybe not imminent. Smith told Fusion his client has not yet exhausted all appeals.

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