Chinese millionaire living in the US accused of cartel ties, extradited to Mexico

Businessman Zhenli Ye Gon arrived back in Mexico on Tuesday, more than nine years after he fled his adopted country for the U.S. in the wake of the discovery at his Mexico City home of $205 million in cash that authorities describe as proceeds of drug trafficking.

The Chinese-born Zhenli was apprehended in the U.S. in July 2007 and was behind bars for most of his stay north of the border.

U.S. authorities indicted him for manufacturing and smuggling methamphetamine into the country, but one witness retracted his statement and another decided not to testify, forcing prosecutors to drop the charges against him in 2011.

Once those charges were dropped, a federal judge authorized Zhenli’s extradition to Mexico, but his attorneys managed to delay the handover until this week, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a final appeal.

Personnel from the AIC, Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI, took custody of Zhenli on Tuesday from U.S. Marshals.

Pending trial, the Shanghai native will be held at the Altiplano maximum security prison in the central state of Mexico, Assistant Attorney General Salvador Sandoval told the media.

Zhenli, who settled in Mexico in the early 1990s and became a naturalized citizen in 2003, ran a company that imported Chinese pharmaceuticals.

In March 2007, a raid of his Mexico City residence uncovered the cash hoard, but Zhenli – who was apparently tipped off – disappeared for several months before surfacing in the United States shortly before his arrest.

Mexican authorities accuse Zhenli of importing from China more than 50 tons of pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in the manufacture of crystal meth. They say the $205 million discovered in his residence represented the profit from selling the chemicals to drug cartels.

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