Raid of ex-mayor's home uncovers illegal weapons

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Mexican army soldiers guard the perimeter around the regional Attorney General’s office after the early morning arrest of former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rohn in the city of Tijuana, Mexico, Saturday June 4, 2011. Hank Rhon, one of Mexico’s most flamboyant businessmen and politicians, has been detained on suspicion of illegal weapons possession, the federal Attorney General’s Office has announced. (AP Photo/Francisco Vega)

TIJUANA, Mexico — Wild-animal collector, gambling tycoon and eccentric former mayor Jorge Hank Rhon has faced unproven allegations of criminal activity throughout his career in the border city famed as a base for drug traffickers.

Now a raid on his home has turned up an arsenal of illegal weapons, prosecutors said Wednesday, and they are setting out to finally make charges stick to a man with deep roots in Mexico’s elite who has long been considered untouchable.

Hauled first to Mexico City for questioning, Hank Rhon was flown back to the border early Wednesday.

The case comes as Mexico heads into a presidential campaign and the party that ruled for 71 years, the party of
Hank Rhon and his legendary father, looks likely to return to power. The unusual circumstances of the raid have had federal officials scrambling to deny it had political motivations.

U.S. officials have long been suspicious of the Hank clan, and the flamboyant Hank Rhon in particular. Never, though, have they even indicted him on any corruption-related charge.

Deputy Attorney General Patricia Bugarin said Wednesday that troops had found 40 rifles, 48 handguns, 9,298 bullets, 70 ammunition clips and a gas grenade at Hank Rhon’s home, and that only 10 of those weapons were licensed.

His attorney, Fernando Benitez, said the evidence will be thrown out because officials had no
search warrant.

The army justified the warrantless search by saying they saw men with illegal weapons entering the house.

Every major Calderon official has come out to say the arrest of Hank Rhon was an act of law enforcement carried out in full transparency under the law.

Many Mexicans find that version hard to believe.

About 2,000 people gathered at a traffic circle in Tijuana on Tuesday afternoon to express support for Hank Rhon.