As the scandals of President Carlos Salinas's regime rocked Mexico in the
1990s, another name surfaced that caught the attention of U.S. officials - the
Hank family. The patriarch, Carlos Hank Gonzales, was for many years a high
level politician inside Mexico's ruling PRI party and was recognized as a man
of immense power and influence. His critics say he represented the
traditional, old style Mexican politics of corruption in business and
government and the stealing of elections and the buying of votes. The Hank
family responds that it's all politics because the father once worked for
former president Carlos Salinas.
Bergman is series reporter for FRONTLINE's "Drug Wars." This article is part of his 1999-2000 reporting for that series and more current information on Carlos Hank Rhon is available elsewhere on the Web.
Today, it is Carlos Hank Gonzales' sons--Carlos Hank Rhon and Jorge Hank
Rhon--who are the subject of much scrutiny.
Jorge, based out of Tijuana, already had a reputation for eccentric
behavior along with allegations of criminality. Jorge owns the gambling
concession in Northern Mexico and runs a racetrack in Tijuana.
Watch excerpts from Carlos Hank Rohn's FRONTLINE interview.
Carlos Hank Rohn, the eldest and less flamboyant son, managed to stay out
of the news until investigators and journalists turned their attention to Raul
Salinas's financial affairs. As reported in FRONTLINE'S "Murder, Money and
Mexico," it was Carlos Hank Rohn who was the reference for Raul Salinas at
Citibank. And it was Citibank who then moved more than a hundred million
dollars secretly out of Mexico for the President's brother.
Eventually, the Swiss National Police would assert that much of that money
was "narcotics" money paid to Raul for political protection. But a number of
wealthy Mexicans, including Carlos Hank Rohn, would be
identified as significant contributors to what Raul and they claim was an
"investment fund." Carlos Hank Rohn's commitment came to $9 million.
In his interview with FRONTLINE, for the first time on the record
and on camera, Carlos Hank Rohn talks about that investment and why he made
Carlos Hank Rhon also defends the family's name which was sullied over the
past two years when a secret U.S. government raw intelligence report, dubbed
the 'White Tiger Report,' was leaked to the press. The report contained details
about government investigations into the Hank family for alleged links to drug
traffickers and money laundering. The report alleged that the Hank family was
intimately involved with powerful drug trafficking organizations, including the
Arellano-Felix Organization, and that Carlos was directly involved in money
laundering. It concluded that the family represented "a significant criminal
threat to the United States."
After the report was leaked, the family began a counter-attack. They hired
high profile lawyers such as former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman and
began lobbying the U.S. government to disavow the document. Attorney General
Janet Reno eventually wrote the family a letter saying the report had been
improperly leaked and that she could not endorse its conclusions because it
had not been properly vetted.
National Public Radio (NPR), which collaborated with FRONTLINE on the "Drug
Wars" series, obtained an interview with Thomas Constantine, head of the
DEA from March 1994 to July 1999. Constantine discusses the allegations
concerning the Hank family and the difficulties in carrying out investigations
in Mexico that could prove or disprove the intelligence information.
In the U.S., the Hank family and one of Carlos Hank Rohn's most important
assets is being defended by Gary Jacobs, CEO and President of Laredo National
Bank in Laredo, Texas. The Federal Reserve alleges that Carlos hid the
ownership interest of his father and others.
If this can be proven, it might result in removal of the $2 billion bank
from his control, plus substantial fines.
Jacobs vigorously defends the Hank family in his FRONTLINE
interview. He accuses 'rogue' elements of the DEA and the Federal Reserve,
plus others, of being part of a campaign to get both Carlos Hank Rohn and
himself. He says they are both 'victims.' The motivation , he says, is
prejudice on the part of U.S. officials: "They don't want Latinos to own or
control banks in the U.S." As for the allegations in the 'White Tiger' report
that brothers Carlos and Jorge Hank Rohn use their businesses as a means to
launder money for drug trafficking clientele, Jacobs calls the charges,
Mr. Jacobs tells FRONTLINE that he is active, from time to time, in support
of both Republicans and Democrats and that he usually supports individuals once
they are in power. Recently Jacobs and Laredo National Bank were each fined by
the Federal Elections Commission for making a $15,000 dollar for a contribution
to the Republican National Committee. Jacobs was fined because he did not
reveal that the Laredo National Bank had reimbursed him for the
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