Mexico: Court annuls preventive detention in tax crimes

MEXICO CITY (HPD) — The Mexican Supreme Court of Justice on Thursday invalidated the ex officio preventive detention for the crimes of tax fraud, a policy that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had defended for years as part of actions to combat corruption. .

The Plenary of the Supreme Court declared preventive detention for tax crimes unconstitutional such as the issuance, purchase and sale of false invoices, tax evasion and smuggling. Because trials often take years in Mexico, the judges argued that being in prison during the trial was tantamount to being subject to punishment before being sentenced.

It is possible that the ministers of the Supreme Court will discuss next week the possibility of invalidating the informal preventive detention for other crimes.

Hours before the decision López Obrador, who is a staunch defender of ex officio preventive detentionhad exhorted the justices of the Supreme Court not to protect tax fraudsters.

“How are judges, magistrates, ministers, defenders of white-collar criminals going to do, how is money going to prevail and not justice?” How is money going to prevail and not justice? ”, said the president in his morning conference.

In Mexico there are two forms of pretrial detention: the one that is declared ex officio with some crimes in a mandatory or automatic way and the justified one, which is when the prosecutor requests it from a judge because he considers that an alleged criminal is dangerous to society or could evade justice.

Ex officio preventive detention has been questioned by international organizations, including the United Nations, which consider that automatically determining the detention of a person goes against their human rights and should only be applied when there is evidence of danger or escape.

Mexico does not have cash or property bonds as in the United States. Instead, for those who are released before trial, there are more than a dozen mechanisms to ensure they appear in court, ranging from electronic surveillance devices to passport confiscation and regular checks.

In 2019, López Obrador promoted a regulation that expanded the list of crimes to 16 that allow pretrial detention ex officio while the suspect awaits his trial.

Pretrial detention policy is especially delicate in a country where trials drag on for years and only two out of ten defendants are found guilty. This means that of the 92,000 suspects estimated to be held awaiting trial – often in the same cells as dangerous criminals – some 75,000 will not be convicted, although they will spend years in prison.

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