A B.C. Supreme Court judge heard Dec. 22 that a former senior military official from Mexico is seeking refugee status in Canada in order to avoid charges for a gas pipeline theft scheme.
Eduardo Leon Trauwitz was arrested Dec. 17 in Metro Vancouver and faces extradition to Mexico where authorities want to try him on hydrocarbon theft and organized crime charges, dating back to his time as head of security at state oil company Pemex. The former brigadier general is in custody awaiting a judge’s Dec. 23 decision whether to free him on bail to live with his daughter, who is studying for a business degree in British Columbia and active in a trade, commerce and social group affiliated with the Mexican consulate.
“We know Mr. Trauwitz fled Mexico [in May 2019], before he was required to face charges because the proceedings, in his view, would be unfair,” Ryan Dawodharry, a lawyer with Canada’s Department of Justice, told the Vancouver court hearing on Dec. 22. “He faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted in the requesting state for the underlying offences.”
Dawodharry opposed Trauwitz’s application for $20,000 bail, calling the former bodyguard to ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto a flight risk.
“His history of failures to appear weigh in favour of his detention,” Dawodharry said.
Defence lawyer Tom Arbogast said Trauwitz lives on a military pension and rental revenue from a property in Mexico, but otherwise has no other income. Dawodharry said evidence from Trauwitz’s tax returns show a $155,000 annual income and proceeds from buying and selling real estate in Mexico, which is enough for him to find a way to flee Canada for another country.
Arbogast denied his client is a flight risk and alleged that he is being framed.
“When we actually look at the facts of this case, it cries out that release should happen immediately,” Arbogast said, who described the matter as complex and unwieldy.
“He is being set up as the fall guy due to corrupt practices in Mexico.”
Arbogast said Trauwitz is actually the person “who was trying to fix things in Mexico,” but now is subject to a situation comparable to Alice in Wonderland.
“Black is white and up is down — because Mr. Trauwitz was the one who was trying to stop hydrocarbon theft and his actions actually prohibited other corrupt individuals from engaging in carbon theft. They are now turning that back against him because they are higher up in the political food chain,” Arbogast said.
Justice Veronica Jackson reserved judgment to 2 p.m. on Dec. 23.
In 2018, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, aka “AMLO,” estimated losses due to fuel theft from Mexican pipelines at $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion a year. At the end of October 2021, a pipeline exploded in Puebla state and one person was killed in a theft attempt.
Trauwitz is the second high-profile Mexican to face extradition proceedings in B.C. this century.
Miners’ union boss Napoleon Gomez Urrutia fled to Vancouver in 2006 and spent 12 years in exile. He was accused of embezzling $55 million from a union trust fund. During his time in the city, Gomez became a Canadian citizen. In 2018, he returned to Mexico when “AMLO” appointed him a senator.
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