MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities have detained the owner of a Mexican oil services company who allegedly defrauded Citigroup of up to $400 million and may have used his professional soccer team to launder money, a top official said Monday.
Amado Yanez is being held under a form of house arrest that allows authorities to hold him for up to 40 days without charges, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said. He said authorities had found evidence of wrongdoing but they continue to investigate.
The case has threatened to put on hold Mexico's much-touted reform of the state-owned oil industry, which would allow private companies to drill for the first time in 75 years. The conservative National Action Party, whose votes are needed to pass enabling legislation for the reform, has refused to continue discussions on the bill until the Yanez case is fully investigated.
National Action was in power for more than a decade beginning in 2000, when Yanez's Oceanografia company started getting showered with big contracts from the state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos company. The party, now in the middle of internal leadership elections, has voiced concerns that current President Enrique Pena Nieto may be using the case to smear National Action politically.
The issue arose when Citigroup's Mexican subsidiary, Banamex, said Oceanografia overstated by $400 million the business it was doing with Pemex. Oceanografia used falsified invoices as collateral for $585 million in loans from Banamex, Citigroup said. But after an investigation, Citigroup could only verify $185 million of invoices.
Mexico's government has taken administrative control of Oceanografia to try to get workers paid and to recover the missing millions. Armed with a powerful fleet of service boats in the Gulf of Mexico, the company has provided construction and services to Pemex's offshore oil platforms.
Yanez also owns a team in Mexico's first division soccer league, the White Roosters based in the central city of Queretaro. The team said in a statement that federal authorities have taken over its offices and are expected to name an administrator for the squad. Officials are investigating whether some of the defrauded money may have been channeled into or though the team's finances.
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