MEXICO CITY – A giant swimming pool and a jacuzzi guarded by stone lions are among the outstanding features of the mansion Mexican authorities seized more than a decade ago from Chinese-born pharmaceutical magnate Zhenli Ye Gon, now behind bars awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges.
The Mexican public got their first glimpse inside the residence on Tuesday as officials offered a tour for the media.
It was in 2007 that a search of the home in Mexico City’s exclusive Bosque de Las Lomas neighborhood uncovered $207 million in cash described by prosecutors as the proceeds of criminal activity.
Now, after letting it sit empty for 12 years, the Mexican government has decided to sell the house, which offers 1,218 sq. m. (13,093 sq. ft.) of living space.
Valued at 95 million pesos ($4.9 million), the mansion will be put up for auction on Aug. 11.
Despite signs of deterioration, enough remains to allow the observer the imagine Zhenli’s erstwhile life of luxury.
Zhenli arrived back in Mexico in October 2016, more than nine years after he fled his adopted country for the United States in the wake of the discovery of the cash at his Mexico City home.
He was apprehended in the US in July 2007 and was behind bars for most of his stay north of the border.
US 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 for five years.
Zhenli, a Shanghai native 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 US.
Mexican authorities accuse Zhenli of importing from China more than 50 tons of pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in the manufacture of crystal meth.
Zhenli claimed that the cash found in his mansion belonged to Mexico’s conservative National Action Party (PAN) and was part of a fund used to finance the 2006 election campaign of then-President Felipe Calderon.
The businessman said he had agreed to hold the money for the PAN after being threatened by Calderon’s labor secretary, Javier Lozano.