The luxurious city of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in recent years became a den of international magnates enriched with criminal capital and sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury. Along with smugglers of nuclear material, sponsors of armed conflicts, kleptocrats, money launderers and financial terrorists also appears the Mexican Hassein Eduardo Figueroa Gómez, a businessman from Jalisco who, along with his father, Ezio Benjamín Figueroa Vázquez, was identified as ringleader of the drug trafficking by the Kingpin Law in 2012.
The Sandcastles-Tracing Sanctions Evasion Through Dubai's Luxury Real Estate Market document, from the private firm Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), located in Washington, to which EL UNIVERSAL had access, indicates that Figueroa Gómez and Figueroa Vázquez were accused by the US to traffic tons of chemical precursors from Europe and sub-Saharan Africa to Mexico, to sell it to cartels with the goal of producing methamphetamines.
Ezio Figueroa Vázquez is incarcerated in the US, after he was arrested in Mexico in 2011 and extradited, while Hassein Figueroa Gómez remains a fugitive. Despite this, C4ADS points out, "it seems to have used Dubai as a base to continue its commercial activities" through transactions for 4.34 million dollars in luxury goods. All of their companies remained active for years after their designation as drug trafficking leader by the Treasury Department and were administered by two partners, Rodrigo Romero Mena and Leopoldo Ochoa Juárez, the latter assassinated in Mexico in 2012. Due to their weak regulatory framework , especially in the real estate sector, "Dubai has offered a path to the international financial system for illegitimate actors and illicit funds," says the document published today in different countries.
For the researcher who coordinated the report, whose name is kept in reserve, it is possible that Figueroa and other partners "are operating in Dubai and in other jurisdictions where their presence or participation is less expected, which allows them to evade detection."
Although the Mexican government has not focused on the Middle East, it notes that "the Figueroa case could serve as a starting point," which is why it recommends identifying the connections and, in the case of Dubai, establishing cooperation with the UAE. It is detailed that Figueroa Gómez, accused in the United States for drug trafficking and conspiracy to launder money, owns at least three properties in Dubai with a value of 1.1 million dollars, 2.57 million dollars and 667 thousand dollars; the most expensive corresponds to a penthouse. It would also have at least seven companies, three in the UAE and four in Cyprus, which have not been investigated by the US, unlike the 16 companies located in Jalisco and Panama, with which the Figueroa were identified by the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
The Emirati companies are engaged in the trade, investment and sale of glass products: Mexico Lindo Trading (registered in 2006), Maestro Investment, Sona Valley (2008) and Diamonds (2008), which implies that they were established before it sanctioned them. EU In Cyprus, Figueroa Gómez has also owned companies such as Ergonas Trading Limited, Forcata Holdings Limited Rio Timto Ltd and Greenfield Studio Limited, which is still operating.
Their niches are commerce in general, investment, construction and real estate; the pattern is similar to that of the companies that are in the UAE, since "they were incorporated before the designation of Figueroa Gómez in April 2012, but they continued operating several years later".
As for Romero Mena, he adds that he is a shareholder in six of the firms and is also director of a company located in Canada, registered in 2016. He owns a penthouse in the Pentominium tower of Dubai, which is not currently valued. "Apparently, he is a longtime associate of Figueroa Gómez, with whom he has worked before and after his appointment" by the EU, the document assures.