Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged Israel on Thursday, July 22, to cooperate in extraditing a fugitive former top investigator, Tomas Zeron, wanted in connection with the disappearance of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in 2014. Zeron is wanted on charges of compromising the investigation into the students’ disappearance. He is also accused of embezzling over $50 million dollars and torturing suspects. Zeron fled Mexico after the case into the mass abduction was reopened, following the election of Lopez Obrador in 2019. He has been in Israel ever since and has requested asylum.
Involvement of Israeli Spyware and Allegations of Corruption
Speaking to the New York Times, Alejandro Encinas, Mexico’s current undersecretary for human rights, charged that Zeron had received assistance from Israeli firms he has ties to, such as the controversial private intelligence firm NSO Group, whose spyware the fugitive ex-investigator reportedly authorized for use in Mexico.
Mexico’s top anti-money laundering investigator said Wednesday that officials from previous administrations from 2012 to 2018 spent about $300 million in government money to purchase spyware from the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group. The bills for programs like the Pegasus spyware appear to have included excess payments that may have been channeled back to former government officials as kickbacks. Santiago Nieto, the head of Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit, said the information is being given to prosecutors in Mexico.
Mexico wants Israel to arrest Zeron, who headed the Criminal Investigation Agency, over allegations of serious irregularities in the probe into one of the country’s worst human rights tragedies: the disappearance of the 43 teaching students which shocked Mexico and sparked mass protests against then-president Pena Nieto’s government. The students had taken five buses to travel to a demonstration against the neo-liberal policy of the government, but were stopped by corrupt police in the city of Iguala, Guerrero and handed over to a drug cartel.
“I hope the government of Israel acts with respect for human rights, because the extradition of this public official is being requested, among other things, for acts of torture,” Lopez Obrador told reporters at a briefing a week after reports that Israel was slow-walking the extradition case.
Mexico also has asked Israel in last June to extradite the writer and former diplomat Andres Roemer who is facing multiple accusations of rape and sexual assault, prosecutors said Monday. “We hope to obtain his apprehension and transfer to Mexico so that he can be made available to a judge soon,” Mexico City prosecutor Ernestina Godoy said in a video message.
The request has the support of Mexico’s Foreign Ministry and attorney general, Godoy said. Prosecutors had previously announced that Roemer, who has Mexican and Israeli dual nationality, was wanted by Interpol at the request of the Mexican government after a court issued an arrest warrant. The allegations against him, which number about 60 according to activists, began in February when the Mexican dancer Itzel Schnaas accused him of sexual assault.