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HomeBusinessEx-general accused of Mexican hydrocarbon theft freed to live in Surrey

Ex-general accused of Mexican hydrocarbon theft freed to live in Surrey

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Bob Mackin

A retired Mexican general in Canadian custody since Dec. 17 will live in Surrey under bail conditions while he awaits extradition proceedings in Vancouver.

The Mexican government wants Canada to return Eduardo Leon Trauwitz, 55, to face trial on organized crime and fuel theft charges. Trauwitz is also the former head of security for state oil company Pemex.

B.C.-arrested Eduardo Leon Trauwitz

In BC Supreme Court on March 14, Justice Michael Tammen ruled Trauwitz should be freed from custody, fitted with an electronic monitoring device and live under an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew with his daughter, Maria Fernanda Leon, who agreed to put up a $20,000 cash surety. Trauwitz must also report regularly to a probation officer.

The Crown, on behalf of the Mexican government, had argued that Trauwitz is a flight risk. But Tammen said the original RCMP application for Trauwitz’s arrest was missing key facts about the accused and his case.

Trauwitz is accused of using his Pemex position from January 2015 to August 2016 to facilitate theft of at least 1.87 billion litres of hydrocarbon from clandestine taps in Pemex pipelines. A lawyer for ex-Pemex employees filed a criminal complaint in March 2017 to the office of Mexico’s Attorney General that claimed they were threatened with firing if they did not follow the scheme. In May 2019, Trauwitz fled to B.C., instead of appearing in a Mexican court, and applied for Canadian refugee status. During a Dec. 22 hearing, Trauwitz’s lawyer Tom Arbogast told the court that his client was the fall guy and subject to a politically motivated prosecution.

“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,” Arbogast said. “They are now turning that back against him because they are higher up in the political food chain.”

Tammen said the RCMP officer who made the application for Trauwitz’s arrest did not provide full details of Trauwitz’s status in Canada. The officer’s affidavit did not include facts about the RCMP’s communication with the Canada Border Services Agency or Trauwitz’s pending refugee claim. Tammen said the officer’s own notes show that on Dec. 14, two days before the arrest warrant application, he learned that Trauwitz was scheduled to report to the Immigration and Refugee Board on Dec. 27 in downtown Vancouver. 

The material non-disclosure was enough to satisfy court requirements to trigger a review of Trauwitz’s detention, because, Tammen said, the officer “painted a picture that was at minimum incomplete, perhaps deliberately misleading, concerning Mr. Trauwitz’s connection to Canada and the knowledge of same.”

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

Additionally, Tammen said, the court was provided an incomplete picture of the sentence Trauwitz would receive if convicted in Mexico. The only information before the bail judge was that the Trauwitz could be jailed 30 to 60 years. But, Tammen said, the Canadian government lawyers are proceeding on breach of trust by a public official, which is punishable by a maximum five-year sentence in Canada. In Mexico, the range is between two and 14 years in prison.

“In short, it is not certain that Mr. Trauwitz, if returned to Mexico, would face the potential maximum sentence of 30 to 60 years that the charges on which extradition proceedings are extant, although serious are not clearly among the most serious offenses known to either Canadian or Mexican law,” he said.

Tammen said the Crown, on behalf of Mexico, will have to satisfy the court that the Mexican charges are similar to Canadian laws during the extradition case.

Trauwitz’s next court appearance is April 6.

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