Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, the former governor of Tamaulipas in northeast Mexico, has been sentenced to nine years in prison in the United States after being accused of spending millions of dollars in bribes on property purchases.
Yarrington Ruvalcaba, who served as governor from 1999 to 2005, has been found guilty of using $3.5m in bribes from individuals and companies hoping to forge business deals in his state, and laundered the money into the US through luxury purchases, including cars, aeroplanes, and properties such as estates and beachfront condos.
In March 2021, Yarrington Ruvalcaba pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, admitting to US authorities he took bribes in exchange for business contracts in the state of Tamaulipas. He is accused of using nominee buyers to mask his participation in the purchases.
Judge Rolando Olvera has ordered the ex-governor to surrender a condominium he purchased in Port Isabel, a coastal city in Texas, and he faced a maximum sentence of up to 20 years. Alamdar Hamdani, the federal prosecutor, hailed the decision as “bringing a corrupt politician to justice” and stated that “even if you are governor of a Mexican state, we will not stand idly by when you use your position to wrongfully fill your pockets and violate the laws of the United States”.
Yarrington Ruvalcaba is a former member of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and was a candidate for president in 2005. He was charged in May 2013 and arrested while travelling in Italy in April 2017. Prosecutors allege he was using a fake name and passport at the time. Italian authorities approved his extradition to the US the following year.
In its statement, US authorities said they expect Yarrington Ruvalcaba will face “removal proceedings” to Mexico, where he also faces an investigation. The state of Tamaulipas serves as the base for one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organisations, the Gulf Cartel. Recently, four Americans who crossed into Matamoros, Tamaulipas – across the border from Brownsville, Texas – were caught in a shootout and kidnapped by armed men.
A Mexican woman was also killed in the crossfire. Authorities searched to recover the kidnapping victims and found one alive, one injured and two dead in a wooden shack on the edge of the city.
The Scorpions faction of the Gulf Cartel claimed credit for the kidnapping, issuing an apology for violating its commitment to “respecting the life and wellbeing of the innocent”. Local media reported that the cartel delivered the five members responsible to authorities, dropping them off with their hands tied on the street.
The case of Yarrington Ruvalcaba highlights the ongoing issues with corruption in Mexico and the links between politicians and criminal organisations. Despite being a former candidate for president, Yarrington Ruvalcaba was not immune from the law, and the sentence serves as a warning to others who may engage in corrupt activities. However, it is clear that there is still much work to be done to combat corruption and the influence of criminal organisations in Mexico.