Jorge Hank Rhon
|Jorge Hank Rhon|
|19th Municipal president of Tijuana|
|Preceded by||José de Jesús González Reyes|
|Succeeded by||Kurt Honold|
January 28, 1956 |
Toluca, Estado de México
|Spouse(s)||María Elvia Amaya|
|Residence||Tijuana, Baja California|
Jorge Hank Rhon (born January 28, 1956) is a Mexican politician, businessman and owner of Mexico's largest sports betting company, Grupo Caliente. An eccentric and controversial personality, he served from December 2004 to February 2007 as the president of the municipality of Tijuana. He is the son of former Mexico City mayor Carlos Hank González and Guadalupe Rhon. Hank is the father of 19 children with several different women; he is also the stepfather of Matador Alejandro Amaya.
Hank has long been target of diverse rumors and accusations by the media and political rivals, like having links with organized crime, or being related to the 1988 murder of an Investigative Journalist in Tijuana. Also, in 2011 Mexican troops raided his property without a warrant and allegedly seized 88 firearms, 2 of which could be linked to homicides by ballistic evidence. Hank's defense lawyer, told the judge that all was political Frameup to prevent him from running for the 2013 state elections, being most of the weapons were planted by the military. The federal judge ruled that the raid was performed without a warrant, and that all evidence against Hank was inadmissible. No formal charges of any crime have ever successfully been leveled against him.
Jorge Hank Rhon studied at the Alexander Von Humboldt German College and Industrial Engineering at the Universidad Anáhuac in the State of Mexico. In 1980 he founded the Grupo Taos, a company that operates pet stores and amusement parks of which he is the President of the Board and General Director. He moved to Tijuana in 1985 to manage the Agua Caliente Racetrack and formed the Grupo Caliente which includes the dog racing track, a hotel, a mall and a network of entertainment centers in 19 states of Mexico as well as 13 countries of Central, South America and Europe. The number of employees of the racetrack grew from 700 to close to 6,000. During his management Tijuana has hosted the Señorita México pageant, the World Boxing title fight between Julio César Chávez and Danilo Cabrera and from 1986 to 1988 the Caribe International Classic Horserace, considered the most important in Latin America. The Racetrack also hosts the Day of the Three Wise Men, Children's Day, Mother's Day where thousands of children and their mothers receive free food, gifts and an entertainment show since 1988. Hank also created the Cuauhtémoc Hank Foundation to give scholarships to students of all grades including studies in foreign schools.
Jorge Hank is also known as an animal lover and trader. However, his purported love for animals has been fouled by reports that many of his animals are the result of smuggling. In 1991, he was directly linked to a failed illicit deal for an endangered gorilla, but was never formally charged.
Campaign for municipal president
Hank won the Tijuana mayoral race of 2004, beating PAN candidate Jorge Ramos by a slim margin, thus ending 15 years of PAN government in Tijuana. His apparent charisma and high profile lifestyle, along with the support of the general population due to his perceived generosity and charity, may have assisted him in surmounting the political disadvantage.
After the election
After the elections, the PAN attempted to nullify the election due to several irregularities. Every claim by the PAN was rejected by the Baja California State Electoral Institute. The PAN then appealed before the Federal Electoral Tribunal which on November 14, 2004 rejected PAN claims to invalidate the election.
One of the claims was that Hank's campaign team distributed material criticizing Ramos, the PAN candidate. The PAN representatives presented pictures of multiple fliers in a car of an alleged PRI affiliate. The TRIFE found that there was no logical link between the fliers and the assumption that there were many more and to conclude this was not an isolated case. The PAN also claimed that the website www.expedientepublico.com published material against Ramos but the TRIFE concluded that in the absence of an author for the site it was unable to conclude the author was a member of the PRI or Hank himself.
The PAN also complained that Hank used religious paraphernalia during his campaign and provided a newspaper cutout of a journalist commenting that Hank made a public invitation to attend mass. The PAN did not provide any other proof of the alleged invitation to mass and the TRIFE found that the sole commentary did not prove Hank's invitation.
Another set of allegations were based on Hank's team exceeding budget limits set by the electoral body, including radio and television spots and this set an inequitable condition for Ramos. The TRIFE noted that the PAN had a longer exposure of TV spots than the PRI and that the Baja California electoral body did not find that an alleged excess in budget would create a disadvantageous position for the PAN candidate even in the most favorable scenario for the PAN. In addition to this, the PAN did not provide costs of the television spots, only the number of them. In regards to campaign events, the PAN provided 28 copies of newspaper cutouts that appeared to contradict each other and some of the cutouts describe the same event. The PAN also provided newspaper cutouts referring to a raffle of ten Volkswagen trucks but failed to demonstrate the Institutional Revolutionary Party paid for them and should be included in campaign budgets. Audio provided by the PAN also mentions not Hank but Samuel Ramos, the PRI candidate for Mexicali, not Tijuana. Radio and television spot costs estimates lacked name and signature of the person issuing them.
The PAN also accused Hank of having an alternative financing scheme through the Cuauhtémoc Hank Foundation based on Hank's own declarations. However, the PAN did not provide any proof of these asseverations and only assumed there was an alternative financing scheme. The PAN presented a newspaper cutout describing Hank as the director of the foundation but the TRIFE did not find this proved there was a financing scheme.
The PAN also alleged that Hank had broadcast television spots before his campaign started but did not provide dates or television station. The PAN also claimed a number of calls made to the emergency line 066 in which people mentioned the presence of the "red tide" (people wearing red shirts and hats near voting booths, characteristic of Hank's campaign), but the number of calls the PAN presented was higher than those reported and in most of those calls the caller failed to provide their last name and location of the voting booths. To support their claims the PAN provided pictures of these red-hat and red-shirt-wearing individuals but the pictures were in black and white.
Mayor of Tijuana
The most notable infrastructure improvement in Tijuana during the Hank administration was the multi-million investment on an underpass at the Alba Roja intersection, just south of the 5 y 10 intersection. The 5 y 10 intersection is one of the most famous in the city and with the heaviest traffic. The investment was for a figure close to 45 million pesos, more than four million dollars.
On February 8, 2005 the Hank administration inaugurated the five million pesos Center of Communication, Control, Computing and Command (C4) that included 60 high definition cameras. In order the reduce kidnappings, a problem of Tijuana for many years, the municipal government started a program of installing GPS devices on the cars of potential victims. In 2007, a program of road safety cameras was introduced in Tijuana that issued speeding tickets in which some drivers received up to 800 tickets issued the same day, same time, and on the same location.
The Hank administration produced significant urban development but failed to significantly reduce crime In 2007, the Operation Tijuana of the Federal Government only momentarily reduced serious crimes and ordinary crimes increased 40% and it was detected corruption amongst the federal forces. The operation was then extended to the five municipalities of the state and dubbed Operation Baja California, per request of the governor Eugenio Elorduy Walther.
On February 20, 2007 Hank requested a license to leave his post as mayor. The license was approved by nine PRI representatives with six PAN representatives rejecting the license and one PRD representative abstaining from voting. Multiple billboards reporting Hank actions as mayor were put out after the annual report and PAN representative complained and offered to remove the PAN-sponsored radio spots on fighting radar camera-issued tickets.
Run for governor of Baja California
At the end of 2006, Jorge Hank expressed his wishes to run a campaign for the 2007 Baja California state election. This flared up comments from PAN politicians saying that he would be violating the state's Antichapulin ("anti-grasshopper") law which prohibits a person of public office to "jump" from one charge to another without ending their current term.
In February 2007 he requested permission from leaving his post as municipal president to accept the candidacy for governor by the Alianza para que vivas mejor (The Alliance So You May live better), which was approved by his party's regidores and denied by the PAN regidores. The PAN also accused five district electoral council members of partiality towards Hank because they served as judges during his administration as president of Tijuana. The Federal Electoral Tribune rejected the complaint determining that the law does not have such restriction that would prevent these five lawyers from serving as judges and then as council members
On June 20, 2007, Baja California's state elections court voted 2 to 1 in favor of the validity of the so-called "anti grasshopper law" thus cancelling Hank's bid for Governor. He appealed the decision before the Federal Electoral Tribunal, which unanimously ruled to uphold his candidacy on July 7, holding that the state law contravened the electoral and political rights of the citizenry. Pending that decision, Hank was not a registered candidate and had to abstain from campaigning. The election date was Sunday August 5, 2007.
According to the Baja California's State Electoral Institute, Jorge Hank lost the election by 8 points (almost 55,000 votes) against Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan, PAN's candidate.
José de Jesús González Reyes
|Municipal president of Tijuana
Carlos Hank González and son Jorge Hank were linked by some journals with money-laundering, after the leak of National Drug Intelligence Center-drafted documents. The United States Attorney General at the time Janet Reno discredited such report and apologized to the Hank family.
U.S. officials have long been suspicious of Hank Rhon, as gambling can be a prime way to launder money, so Nevada's Gaming Control Board has twice warned companies operating there to avoid any contracts with Hank's 'Grupo Caliente', and his U.S. visa was apparently revoked in 2009. Mexican media reports that U.S. DEA agents monitor every arrival of Hank's private jet to the U.S. but have not seen him on board.
Hank Rhon's former chief bodyguard, Antonio Vera Palestina, was convicted of the 1988 murder of Zeta journalist Héctor Félix Miranda, who had criticized Hank Rhon and other prominent people in his writing, but there was no evidence linking Hank Rhon to the crime, and Vera accepted the crime which he had his own reasons to commit. Antonio Vera's son, Jorge Vera Ayala, became Hank's chief bodyguard. For the next eighteen years, Zeta ran a full-page ad in every issue asking Hank why Félix Miranda had been killed.
Hank was detained in 1995 at the Mexico City airport when he was carrying a suitcase full of articles made of ivory tusks, pearl vests and coats made from the skins of endangered ocelots, but Hank defended claiming that no law had been broken and the merchandise was legal. He was released on bail and was later acquitted.
Information released by Wikileaks, stated that Mexican military and police forces were involved in a standoff with local security at Hank's racetrack in May 2009, when the security wouldn't allow access without a warrant. About this case, on July 8, 2009, then Consul General Ronald Kramer wrote a confidential cable to the U.S. Secretary of State that said the grounds of the Agua Caliente racetrack, owned by Hank Rhon, were believed to "still secure havens for organized crime." The cable cited no evidence.
The attorney general of Baja California said Hank was being investigated for the 2009 death of 24-year old Angelica Muñoz, who was the girlfriend of Hank's son Sergio Hank. As Sergio was the one who found Angelica's body, he was called by the police only to sign his statement on the case. As of 2014 no criminal prosecution has been done against him or anyone related to him for this case.
Detention and drop of Charges
On the morning of June 4, 2011, about 100 Mexican soldiers raided Hank Rhon's property without a warrant in search of weapons, allegedly seizing 40 rifles (weapons used exclusively by the Mexican military or institutions with a special permit), 48 handguns and 9,000 rounds of ammunition, and Hank was taken into custody. While he denied knowledge and possession of the weapons that were allegedly seized at his home, his wife María Elvia Amaya issued a statement saying some of the weapons were authorized for use by security personnel on the compound. Meanwhile, the Attorney General stated that ballistic evidence shows that two handguns of the 88 firearms seized have been linked to homicides in Baja California. A seized .40 caliber handgun was used in the killing of car dealer Martín Feliciano Camacho Ontiveros on 28 June 2010; and a .380 caliber handgun was used in the 16 December 2009 murder of security guard Olegario Figueroa Leandro. Hank's lawyer, Fernando Benítez Álvarez del Castillo, told the federal judge that most of the weapons were planted by the military.
After only 10 days in jail, a federal judge ruled that the raid was performed without a warrant, and therefore, all evidence against him is inadmissible. Then, a state judge refused to hold him on any of the murder investigations with only the inadmissible evidence as proof. All charges were dropped and he was released on 14 June 2011.
- José Guadalupe Osuna Millán — The PAN (ruling party) candidate for governor
- Baja California state election, 2007
- Official Campaign site
- Tribunal Federal Electoral, Juicio de Revisión Constitucional Electoral, November 14, 2007.
- El Sol de Tijuana, February 19, 2007
- Government of Baja California.
- Government of Tijuana, February 1, 2005
- La Prensa San Diego, September 29, 2006
- Frontera February 28, 2007
- Panorama de Baja California, March 2007
- Frontera, May 7, 2007.
- Univision, January 22, 2007
- Frontera, Abril 26, 2007.
- Jornada, February 20, 2007.
- El Sol de Tijuana, February 27, 2007.
- PAN confident that the Anti-grasshopper law will be reversed, La Crónica December 23, 2006.
- Desecha tribunal queja de PAN sobre Hank Rohn, El Universal, May 5, 2007
- Operation White Tiger
- Reno Contradicts U.S. Drug Report, July 2000
- Elliot Spagat; Eduardo Castillo (8 June 2011). "After years of rumor, Tijuana mayor faces charges". Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- El Avion de Hank
- "Arrest of Former Tijuana Mayor: Putting Crime in the 'Freezer'?". Insight Crime. 5 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
- Mexico Links Ex-Tijuana Mayor to Murder Weapons
- "Desaparece" guardaespaldas de Hank Rhon
- Hector Tobar (November 24, 2006). "Jesus Blancornelas, 70; writer exposed actions of drug cartels". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
- LA Weekly, February 15, 2006
- Detienen a Jorge Hank en Tijuana
- "U.S. consul’s cable paints dark picture of Hank Rhon". San Diego Red. 5 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- de Cordoba, Jesus (14 June 2011). "Controversial Mexican Politician Freed on Weapons Charges". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
- Ex-mayor of Tijuana denies knowing about weapons seized on his property
- Castillo, Eduardo (7 June 2011). "Tijuana mayor ordered held for 2 more days". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- Mexican military arrest one of country's richest men Jorge Hank Rhon
- "Mexican Troops Find Gun Cache in Raid of Ex-Tijuana Mayor's Home". Associated Press (Fox News Latino). 6 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
- Dibble, Sandra (10 June 2011). "Feds: Guns seized at home of ex-TJ mayor tied to homicides". Sign on San Diego. Retrieved 2011-06-11.
- "Declarará Hank Rhon por homicidios cometidos con sus armas". Excelsior (in Spanish). 13 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- "Acepta juez 8 pruebas 'clave' de defensa de Hank: abogado". El Universal (in Spanish). 10 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-10.