Unclear Political-Business Affairs, Behind Helicopter Accident In Puebla

The remains of the wrecked helicopter. Photo: Eduardo Miranda

Everything that the political elite touches, becomes business, and the helicopter in which Senator Moreno Valle and Gov. Alonso died was no exception. It belonged to the Torre Mendoza brothers, textile entrepreneurs who ventured into the field of air transportation shoulder to shoulder with other politicians and private contractors such as Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantu, former President Peña Nieto´s friend and favorite supplier.

MEXICO CITY (Proceso) .- The Torre Mendoza family, who built their fortune in the textile industry in Tlaxcala and later in Puebla, had close ties to the now deceased PAN senator Rafael Moreno Valle -with whom, allegedly, shady deals happened during the time he was governor of Puebla, but also to Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, favorite contractor and personal friend of former president Enrique Peña Nieto.

Rafael and José Antonio Torre Mendoza are also the sole shareholders of the company Servicios Aéreos del Altiplano, S.A. of C.V. (AKA) SAASA and owners of the Agusta A109S Grand helicopter with license plate XA-BON, which crashed on December 24 and caused the death of its five occupants: recently elected Governor Martha Érika Alonso, her husband and former governor of Puebla Rafael Moreno Valle, his personal assistant Héctor Baltazar Mendoza and captains Roberto Coppe Obregón and Marco Antonio Tavera Romero.

Like the other companies of air taxis that operate in the country, SAASA provides its services to the political-business elite; in the last decade the company acquired a fleet of helicopters and at least four aircraft:

  • A Cessna Cessation Mustang 510
  • Two LearJet 45
  • Bombardier Challenger 300,

With their respective license plates XA-JRT, XA-GTP, XA-EMA and XA-BOM .

As an example, the Challenger 300 is the aircraft on which Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong former Minister of the Interior (Secretario de Gobernación)  traveled from Toluca to the Bahamas on January 12, 2017 with his wife Laura Vargas Carrillo, according to a travel logbook that Proceso newspaper consulted at the “Comandancia del Aeropuerto Internacional de Toluca (AIT)”.

Amongst the other clients of the company is Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, who built and financed the so-called “Casa Blanca” of the former presidential couple in Mexico City’s exclusive neighborhood of “Las Lomas”. In 2017 the entrepreneur traveled in the aircrafts XA-BOM and XA-EMA, according to flight logs that Proceso found among the tens of thousands of air registers stored in Toluca.

This, despite the fact that Hinojosa Cantú owns two air taxi companies established in Toluca: Eolo Plus and Aerolíneas Primordiales, which provide their services to exclusive clients, including the Peña Nieto family.

In August of 2017 relatives of the then president, including his wife Angélica Rivera, benefited from a “special” service of the company: the payment of bribes to Customs agents and the National Institute of Migration to avoid procedural revisions, as revealed by Proceso in its numbered edition 2169.

Hinojosa Cantú did not have a history in aviation not even an office at the Toluca airport when he formed Eolo Plus on May 14, 2006, six months after Peña Nieto took office as governor of the State of Mexico.

During the next two years of the Peña Nieto´s administration, Hinojosa´s companies received public contracts for more than 22 billion pesos (1.1 billion USD), in air taxi services for the PRI political party. Now the businessman controls one of the most important hangars of the Toluca International Airport and is one of the main Fixed Base Operators (FBO) there.

In September 2014 Moreno Valle´s administration in Puebla purchased an Agusta helicopter for 11 million dollars, without bidding and with federal government funds labeled for public safety. The governor was appointed to use the state’s aircraft at his convenience and even tried to place his initials, RMV, on the helicopter’s license plate.

Eolo Plus, Hinojosa Cantú´s company, acted as an intermediary for the Agusta’s sale. This was reported by periódico Central de Puebla in September 08 2014, in an article signed by journalist Alejandro Mondragón. Not very much more is known because the government of the state “reserved” all the information related to the transaction and the operation of the helicopters during Moreno Valle´s government.

Before flying to SAASA, of the Torre Mendoza brothers, the Augusta helicopter license plates XA-BON that collapsed, belonged to Eolo Plus: back then, with the license plate XA-UPD, and it was one of the aircrafts Peña Nieto used during his 2012 presidential campaign, as it was revealed by Reforma Newspaper.

A practically identical helicopter – an Agusta AW 109SP Grand New -, belonging to Eolo Plus and with license plate XA-UQH, fell on the night of July 28, 2012 with Juan Armando Hinojosa García on board, son of Hinojosa Cantú after he came back from a meeting organized by Peña Nieto.

Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantu (Photo: Líderes Mexicanos)

The relationship of Hinojosa Cantú with the owners of SAASA is not limited to commercial matters. This year he instructed to publish an obituary in the newspaper “El Universal” for Rosa Magdalena Mendoza de Torre, mother of Rafael and José Antonio Torre Mendoza, owners of SAASA, in which he “respectfully” sent his condolences to the Torre Mendoza family.

Between 2015 and 2016, the government of Puebla awarded Grupo Textil Providencial and La Casa de Los Sueños, of the Torre Mendoza brothers, contracts for 74.3 million pesos for the purchase of 30 thousand electronic tablets, although their core business is in the textile industry.

Periódico Central de Puebla revealed in November of 2017 that the prices of the devices were inflated, since each tablet resulted with a cost higher than 700 pesos at its market value.

Casa de Los Sueños was also involved in another alleged fraud with electronic tablets in 2016, in the state of Tlaxcala, under PRI´s Mariano González Zarur administration. Local press reported the company won the tender based on inside information, which inflated the prices and falsified invoices, to finally distribute only 5 thousand of the 16 thousand contracted. In this tender, the Torre Mendoza family competed with two companies: La Casa de Los Sueños and Comercializadora BOM, incorporated in Tlaxcala in August 2014.

When it was aired in the press that SAASA was the owner of the fallen helicopter, the company’s web portal became inaccessible.

 

The Yucatan Times
Newsroom with information from Proceso 2200 edition 



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