MEXICO CITY — A Mexican anti-corruption nonprofit says that most of a shipment of New Zealand cows destined for small ranchers in Chihuahua state instead wound up on the ranch of the then-governor.
The group says documents that include government cattle tracking records show that some 900 cows made it to the ranch of the now-fugitive ex-Gov César Duarte. The group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción e Impunidad MCCI), published its investigation Tuesday.
A shipment of 1,400 cows arrived by ship at the Pacific port of Mazatlan in June 2015. The shipment was arranged by the government to help rebuild the state's herds after two years of drought. They were to be distributed to small ranches with fewer than 45 cows.
The group says farmers took out government-financed loans to pay for cows they never received. ( Read the investigation report here (in Spanish)
The company which exported cattle from New Zealand to Mexico that were supposed to be sold to small farmers but instead went to the former governor has washed its hands of responsibility for their fate.
Javier Mata of Livestock and Agricultural Products New Zealand said he had seen reports in the last two days about the June 2015 shipment, but that the company took no responsibility once the animals had been delivered.
"We sold the cattle to the state government of Chihuahua, we delivered them. What happens to them after that, it's hard for us to be clear because we have no more involvement."
In 2014, the Chihuahua government announced a breeding program to repopulate drought-stricken farms by crossbreeding local cattle with foreign livestock.
The government and local farmers paid $700,000 to import over 1,500 head of beef cattle, including Hereford and Angus breeds. Local farmers paid over 20,000 pesos ($1,000) per head never received the cows they had paid for.
Considered a fugitive from justice, Duarte is believed to have fled to El Paso, Texas earlier this year to avoid corruption charges and has not been seen since. Mexico is seeking to have him arrested and extradited.
His case is the most scandalous out of a staggering list of 11 Mexican former governors arrested, charged or under investigation in the last four years for embezzling at least $13.4 billion, according to estimates by Mexican authorities.