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Friday, 18 May 2018

Lady Luck Keeps Shining on Ottawa’s Sakto Corporation

The Ottawa-headquartered real estate firm Sakto Corporation has for years faced accusations that it owes its success to money originating from the alleged Malaysian kleptocrat Abdul Taib Mahmud. Sean Murray, the president and CEO of Sakto, is married to Jamilah Taib, the eldest of Abdul Taib Mahmud’s four children, raising suspicions that Mr. Murray owes his success to the Taib family’s ill-gotten fortune.
Sean Murray and Jamilah Taib

Most recently, Sakto Corporation can notch two notable successes in its ongoing campaign to maintain its reputation as a legitimate enterprise.

First,  the Ontario Superior Court of Justice threw out a case brought by the Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds' Association for the Peoples of the Rainforest, and Mutang Urud, demanding that Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto Dominion Bank, Manulife Financial Corporation, and Deloitte and Touche reveal information on their financial dealings with Sakto. The team defending Sakto Corporation is so pleased with its legal acumen it's even set up a website, The Facts Matter.

Second, Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD has rejected a complaint from Bruno Manser Fonds against Sakto. Though the complaint was denied, the behaviour of the NCP was inconsistent, suggesting to some that the NCP was succumbing to pressure in Ottawa.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

After cyanide spill, can First Majestic clean up its act?

On March 11 of this year, the Canadian mining company First Majestic Silver Corp spilled 200 litres of a cyanide solution from the San Dimas project into the Piaxtla River in Durango, Mexico. The spill of the solution - representing roughly 100 to 180 mg of cyanide - apparently occurred when a truck carrying the deadly chemical ran out of fuel on a hill. An employee either failed to close a valve, or the valve itself was faulty.
Protesters demanding that Canadian
mining companies get out of Mexico

An environmental organization named Conselva y Voces Unidas por el Agua, which has its offices in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, has demanded a valid environmental assessment of the environmental impact of the spill. One month after the spill, that does not appear to have happened.

“The damage to the ecosystem has to be evaluated – if it filtered to the subsoil, and affected the water table, which supplies the community with water,” said the executive director of Conselva, Sandra Guido, shortly after the spill was reported.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Corruption and impunity on trial: Mexican police officers claim torture after being charged in case of missing Italians

On January 31 Raffaele Russo, 60, an Italian national from Naples, travelled in a rented white Honda CRV 40 kilometers from his four star hotel in Ciudad Guzmán, to the town Tecalitlán in southeast Jalisco.  He left behind his son, Antonio Russo, 25, and his nephew, Vincenzo Cimmino, 29. Apparently, his plan was to explore opportunities to sell light machinery.

During the trip Raffaele was in contact with another of his sons, Francesco, who was in Mexico City. Their last communication was abruptly cut off at 3 pm on the 31st. Francesco was then unable to reach his father, and grew concerned. He contacted the car rental agency, which said that the last GPS reading was from 3.23 PM. Just before this, Rafaelle also sent a WhatsApp message to family members in Italy saying that police officers were following him.
The three missing men

Francesco then called his brother and cousin in Ciudad Guzmán, and asked them to go look for his father. They arrived in Tecalitlán in a rental vehicle similar to Raffaele's around 6 pm on that same night, and asked after him. At about 7 pm they stopped at a gas station on Highway 110, on the outskirts of town.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Canadian threatened before dying under mysterious circumstances in Zipolite, Mexico

William (Bill) Halliday, a 49-year-old Canadian from Toronto, died around one o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, March 10, 2018 in a hospital in San Pedro Pochutla, Oaxaca. According to a Canadian friend, Bill had come to the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, specifically the beach at Zipolite, after the breakup of a multi-year relationship.
The beach at Zipolite, Oaxaca

The circumstances surrounding Bill’s death are disturbing, particularly in the context of his final text messages. The last communication to his friend, shortly before his death, was:  I fucked up badly I should not have done what I did they are xom Coming to get me I am afraid (sic).

This was sent at 11:24 am on Saturday – just before he was found in distress by the side of the road near Playa del Amor and transported to the hospital, where he died.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Priceless 18th century jewels found in Caribbean off Mexico

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has announced in a statement that a team of underwater archaeologists exploring in the Caribbean found a priceless shipment of jewels from the 18th century. The discovery is being given top billing at the recently inaugurated Museum of Underwater Archaeology, located in Campeche.

It’s believed that the jewels, likely intended for sale to affluent Spaniards, were lost when a ship went down in the strong currents that converge off the Yucatán coast. This is the first time that professional underwater archaeologists have discovered artifacts of this sort in Mexico.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Reports of human rights abuses in Sinaloa as Black Hawk helicopters hunt for Rafael Caro Quintero

The Mexican government is on the hunt for the notorious drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero.  Dozens of elite members of Mexico’s armed forces have laid siege to a large area deep in the sierras, surrounding the Sinaloan villages of La Noria, Las Juntas, Babunica and Bamopa, with locals complaining of systematic human rights abuses.

Rafael Caro, 65, has been on the run for five years, and is something of a legend in Sinaloa. Back in the 1970s he controlled the now-defunct Guadalajara Cartel, but ran afoul of US authorities for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of DEA agent Enrique (“Kiki”) Camarena Salazar. Then in 2013, a state court in Jalisco released Caro on a technicality – possibly as a result of a corrupt process – thus enraging the US government. He is now wanted in both the US and Mexico.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Fractured Sinaloa Cartel creates mountain ghost towns

The Sinaloa Cartel, believed to be one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world, is no longer at war with itself, but it is struggling to re-organize after internal strife and continued pressure from the Mexican government.
"El Vic" in custody

The result is that the security situation in rural Sinaloa has fallen apart. The circumstances are particularly grave in the municipality of Concordia, in the Sierra Madre Occidental, with mines closing and hundreds of people fleeing their villages due to threats from drug traffickers. Many of these villages are now completely vacant ghost towns.

This is happening as the Sinaloa Cartel struggles to recover from a breakdown that began while its leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was on the run, and that accelerated with his detention on January, 2016. By the time of his extradition to the United States, one year later, the leadership vacuum was complete.