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Feature 110716 Clavel

Monday, November 7, 2016

Mexican Officials Stole Millions from Troubled Prison System

By Tristan Clavel

More than $2 million were reportedly diverted from Mexico's 2014 federal penitentiary budget by officials who used the money to acquire luxurious vehicles and flights, highlighting how corruption contributes to the problems in Mexico's prison system.

Mexico's federal audit institution (Auditoría Superior de la Federación – ASF) suspects that at least 38.5 million pesos were diverted from the 2014 federal penitentiary budget, reported Animal Político, citing a September 2016 request from the agency asking the Attorney General's Office to open a criminal probe into the allegations.

The diverted funds -- which currently amount to just over $2 million, but which were equivalent to more than $2.8 million based on the 2014 exchange rate -- were stolen from the budget of the Administrative Body for Prevention and Social Rehabilitation (Órgano Administrativo Desconcentrado de Prevención y Readaptación Social – OADPRS), which is part of the Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB).

Among the irregularities noted by the ASF was the acquisition of seven bulletproof pickup trucks for a total of 17 million pesos (roughly $885,000 at current exchange rates) without an established security justification. Three of these vehicles were initially not even received by the OADPRS, but were temporarily used by high-ranking officials of other SEGOB branches.

A flight service worth 1.5 million pesos (about $78,000) for SEGOB officials was also contracted with OADPRS funds due to "the urgency to transport high-ranking public servants to attend matters in federal prisons where ground transportation is complicated." But ASF points to the fact that the public contract was awarded without a bid process as required by law, and that another 20 million pesos (more than $1 million) were spent to acquire four flights for which no justification was provided.

InSight Crime Analysis

The revelations concerning the embezzlement of large sums of money from the federal penitentiary budget during a year which saw a rise in the number of prison incidents illustrate the role of corruption in contributing to Mexico's notoriously problem-plagued correctional system.

The number of attempted escapes, riots, assaults, murders and suicides reached 1,262 in 2014 and involved 2,459 inmates -- an increase of roughly 20 percent compared to the previous year. And although the government has recently made attempts to address the many flaws in the prison system, corruption could frustrate these efforts.

See also: Coverage of Prisons

One of the most embarrassing examples of how corruption undermines Mexico's prison system came in July 2015, when Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, arguably the most infamous drug lord in the world, escaped from a maximum security facility. (He was recaptured in January 2016.) Juan Ignacio Hernández Mora, who headed the OADPRS when funds were embezzled in 2014, was fired from his post along with two other high-ranking officials following El Chapo's escape.

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This commentary, "Mexico Officials Stole Millions from Troubled Prison System: Report," was first published in InSight Crime on Nov. 1, 2016 and reposted per a Creative Commons authorization.  InSight Crime's objective is to increase the level of research, analysis and investigation on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Tristan Clavel graduated from the London School of Economics with a BSc in History and International Relations. He earned a master's degree in Defense, Security and Crisis Management from the Institut des Relations Internationales et Stratégiques in Paris.

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