- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lawyers for methamphet-amine trafficking suspect Zhenli Ye Gon, tied to what U.S. officials say was the world’s largest seizure of drug cash, said yesterday that they would fight efforts to return him to Mexico.

Mr. Ye Gon — wanted in Mexico on charges involving organized crime, drug trafficking and weapons — was arrested by federal agents Monday at a suburban Maryland restaurant. He was scheduled for arraignment yesterday afternoon in Washington.

Martin McMahon, a District-based lawyer who represents Mr. Ye Gon, said his client would not receive a fair trial in Mexico.

“President Calderon has already said he is going to jail,” Mr. McMahon said. “We will vigorously oppose his extradition.”

Mr. McMahon said he thinks Mr. Ye Gon was being held at the Montgomery County detention center in Rockville. He was arrested in nearby Wheaton Monday evening.

Another lawyer, Ning Ye, went to the federal courthouse in the District yesterday morning to demand that authorities charge Mr. Ye Gon or release him.

DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said Mr. Ye Gon was arrested on drug-smuggling and money-laundering charges, adding that the fugitive was tracked down by agents and did not turn himself in.

Mexican officials have requested his arrest for extradition. Police discovered $207 million at his Mexico City mansion in what U.S. officials have called the world’s biggest seizure of drug cash.

Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza called the arrest “magnificent news” and said Mexican officials had 60 days to file their legal arguments for Mr. Ye Gon’s extradition. The Chinese-Mexican fugitive is wanted on organized crime, drug trafficking and weapons charges.

Mr. Medina-Mora said the cash seized at Mr. Ye Gon’s home was connected to one of the hemisphere’s largest networks for trafficking pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in methamphetamine. He said the ring had been operating since 2004, illegally importing the substance and selling it to a drug cartel that mixed it into the crystal form and exported to the United States.

Rogelio de la Garza, Mr. Ye Gon’s lawyer in Mexico, said he feared that U.S. authorities may simply deport him to avoid a drawn out battle in a U.S. court.

Mr. de la Garza said he will fight for Mr. Ye Gon’s immediate freedom if he arrives in Mexico, arguing that the money was earned legally and that Mr. Ye Gon was not found with any narcotics.

U.S. drug enforcement officials have praised President Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on Mexican traffickers since taking office. DEA chief Karen Tandy also applauded Mexican agents after the March money seizure.

“This is like law enforcement hitting the ultimate jackpot. But luck had nothing to do with this windfall,” said Mrs. Tandy, calling it “the largest single drug-cash seizure the world has ever seen.”