| NEW YORK/MEXICO CITY
NEW YORK/MEXICO CITY Oct 18 The United States
on Tuesday extradited to Mexico a businessman accused of working
with drug cartels after $205 million in cash was found at his
Mexico City home, ending a years-long legal battle.
Zhenli Ye Gon, who was arrested in the United States in July
2007 after the discovery of the cash, faces charges of organized
crime, drug trafficking, firearms and money laundering in
Mexico, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department said in a
"The United States government recognized Mexico's strong
interest in prosecuting its own citizen," said spokesman Peter
Ye Gon's extradition came after the U.S. Supreme Court
declined to hear his final appeal.
Ye Gon was the former owner of the defunct Mexican
pharmaceutical wholesaler Unimed Pharm Chem, which imported
chemicals that U.S. and Mexican prosecutors alleged were used to
manufacture the illegal drug methamphetamine.
Ye Gon's attorney, Gregory Smith, has said his client was a
legitimate businessman. "The Mexican people should understand
that Mr. Ye Gon has not yet received any trial, or been
convicted of anything," said Smith, adding that Ye Gon had
already spent nearly a decade in jail in the United States.
U.S. prosecutors brought charges against Ye Gon after his
arrest, but their case against him collapsed in 2009 after key
witnesses recanted or refused to testify.
Ye Gon, who remained in custody, had since been fighting his
extradition to Mexico, arguing he could face torture or even
death if sent back.
U.S. courts rejected those arguments and the U.S. Supreme
Court on Monday denied a petition addressed to Justice Sonia
Sotomayor to temporarily halt the extradition, clearing the way
for Ye Gon's return.
"We were able to refute all the arguments put forward by the
defendant and his defense," Salvador Sandoval, an assistant
attorney for international affairs in Mexico's attorney
general's office, said in a statement. An arrest warrant issued
against Ye Gon in the State of Mexico is still in force, the
The cash seizure at Ye Gon's mansion, said by authorities to
be the largest ever at the time, played a role in U.S.
money-laundering investigations at the British banking giant
HSBC and the Las Vegas Sands Corp casino
Ye Gon's attorney said his client was unable to dispute
Mexico's charges during the extradition hearings since the focus
was on the treaty between the United States and Mexico. "But
those asserted facts now can (and will) be disputed in Mexico,"
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Natalie Schachar
in Mexico City; Editing by Peter Cooney)