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interview: carlos hank rhon

 


Hank is a Mexican billionaire businessman who owns majority shares in the Laredo National Bank in Laredo, Texas. The Hank family was publicly linked to drug trafficking after a U.S. government raw intelligence report about the family was leaked to the press. The family strongly denies the allegations. Updated information on Carlos Hank Rhon is available elsewhere on the Web. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted in 2000.
What happened? Is it because you had this relationship with Raul Salinas, or your father had this relationship with the Salinas family in general? That's where this all started?

I think that's where it started. I had been in relation with the Fed, I've been the owner of the bank for many years. But I think they began to get worried about me owning a bank because of this problem, you know? And I guess it's everything together--knowing my father working for Salinas, myself being a friend of Carlos Salinas and Raul Salinas. So in the beginning, I understood why they were worried, because they say, well, they heard this in the press, Raul Salinas is in jail in Mexico because they think he killed he somebody and he embezzled some money. Also up till now, fortunately for him, they haven't been able to prove anything. But anyway, at that time it was a big issue.

So I understood why they wanted to know a little bit more about me, why they were worried. Also up till now, fortunately for him, they haven't been able to prove anything. But anyway, at that time it was a big issue. So I understood why they wanted to know a little bit more about me, why they were worried. But then, when they began asking questions and then began implying that I had done some illicit things, then I began to get worried and to get mad, because I mean, I knew how I was, and they were getting a picture of myself that was completely different...

But your involvement, I mean your name really had never surfaced before, until the Citibank bank account of Raul Salinas. I guess maybe if you could explain how you came to be at Citibank and then why you brought Raul there?

...I introduced Raul Salinas to Citibank, it was one of those things that we were having breakfast together and he asked me, "Where do you bank--with which banks do you bank in Mexico and outside?" And I told him about Citibank. So he said, "Well, I would like to meet with them, if you don't mind." So one day we came together, by coincidence, to New York, and I introduced Raul to the people in Citibank.

The story is that you helped open the account by giving him a check, or by--

To be honest, I don't know exactly how he opened the account. There is what you call a trust . . . made by Raul Salinas, where he gathered some money from different friends of [his] or different businesspeople, to do business in the future, after his brother was in office--after he left the office. I don't know exactly how he opened the account, [how] he used the money, if he used a different money. That's what they say, but I couldn't--

But then did you give him some money?

Yes. I did. I invested with him, like, $9,000,000... His idea was to make a fund to develop new businesses. He invited--I couldn't tell you exactly how many people, but around 10 people--to invest in the fund that he was going to manage and promote after his brother left the office of the Presidency. Why did I invest with him? Because I thought it was a good investment. They had very good contacts, they're very bright people. So that was the reason.



Was there a contract or a receipt or some kind of agreement?

No. It was just a conversation and an idea that he was developing. Probably sounds a little bit strange in the States, a fund of that kind of management. But in Mexico it's not so unheard of, no? Once you get a close relationship with someone in business or in family, some of the deals are done without even signing papers.

Were the families close? I mean, did you grow up together?

I met Carlos Salinas in preparatory, high school-- the last years of high school. We were probably, what? 18. No, probably less. Like 15 or so. And we went to the same preparatory school in Mexico. I was in the same year as Carlos. Raul was a year above us. And then we were together again in the university. In the university, [I was] more with Raul, because Raul was studying engineering, the same as I did, and Carlos was studying economy. So yeah, we are friends for many years.

It's been published that some of the money you sent to him, you sent in one of his aliases that he was using in one of his accounts. Was that unusual? I mean, it appears unusual.

Well, the idea was that he was going to have a fund, so it was kind of sending the money to one account that I didn't even know to whom it belonged...

So the idea was that after Carlos left office, he would in some way, because he was then a private individual, he would be able to use his prestige, as well as with his brother, to make more money.

I think so.

And the idea of sending money to an alias didn't bother you?

Well, at that time, I didn't know it was an alias. I thought it was somebody that he was using for the fund. So at that time, it didn't bother me...

So you don't believe that any of this money that Raul accumulated was drug money?

I don't. I mean, I don't-- I couldn't swear. But I don't believe so.

Because?

Well, from my point of view, if you can make money legally, if you're a smart guy, you live much happier than trying to do it other ways. If you cannot, well, probably there's some guys that are prepared to do it that way. But I know that Raul and Carlos are bright people. They understand business and politics very well. So I really wouldn't see any need for doing something illegal...

This is the original White Tiger Report, which has set off most of the other things. In fact, some of the words in here are lifted and later on appear apparently in the IC Report. Here's the synopsis:

"Carlos Hank Gonzales and his two sons, Carlos Hank Rhon and Jorge Hank Rhon, have long been the subject of investigations relating to political corruption, bribery, income tax violations, money laundering, racketeering, and corrupt organizations. The Hank family controls a consortium of businesses which have a financial link with a major Mexican drug trafficking organization."

Where would they come from?

It's difficult. And I think I told you, the last time we met, that it has been really difficult for me to find out where do they come from, because as you can imagine, I am very worried and disappointed and angry at these things. But I haven't been able to find where do they come from.

Because with this thing, I think, like about two years, in our holidays, we were talking to someone. I really did a lot of thinking. I [said], "Jesus, did I do something really wrong? I mean, I don't think so, but am I wrong and trying not to accept something that I did?" And to be honest, I came to the conclusion that it was the wrong perception that I had to fight. But I am very at ease with myself, very sure that I have done nothing wrong...

Recently the Federal Election Commission fined Gary Jacobs and the Bank.

Yes.

For what, and why?

I think he gave money to the Republican Party that probably he shouldn't given, or the amount was a little more than what he was allowed, something like that. And they were fined.

As I understand it, he gave money, and then he was reimbursed by the Bank.

I think so. Yes.

Which technically, since you're the main owner of the Bank, would have you giving a contribution, you know, indirectly.

Yeah, I check it out, because it also worried me, and I wasn't aware of it in detail. But apparently, no, I didn't give any authorization. And what the lawyers believe is that that has nothing to do with me...

If you have a difficulty it's that, in the American idiom, where there's so much smoke, people will say there must be fire.

Yeah. We have a similar saying...

And in my contacts with law enforcement people in purposes of research, they say to me, "You don't have this many coincidences of informants coming forward and saying, 'There's drug money here, there's drug connection here, the name is connected to it in some fashion.' There must be something."

I'm completely sure there's nothing in my case, but as I told you, I mean people sometimes say things that they cannot prove and it's very difficult to stop them.

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