Tycoon Takes Refuge in France as Mexico Seeks Arrest in Tax Case

Mexican businessman Miguel Aleman Magnani is residing in France and fighting an arrest warrant in his native country on charges of tax fraud, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Aleman Magnani is accused by Mexican authorities of not paying 65 million pesos ($3.2 million) in taxes dating back to 2018 that the airline he co-founded, Interjet, collected from customers and employees but failed to forward to the government. Aleman Magnani has no intention to travel to Mexico for the time being.

“It’s not clear that Mr. Aleman committed any crimes,” Javier Mondragon, a lawyer for the family, said in an interview. The airline’s limited finances meant it couldn’t cover all of its dues, he said. “It was the company, not Mr. Aleman, that decided to favor paying salaries when there wasn’t enough money to cover taxes.”

The arrest warrant names Aleman Magnani as director of the company at the time, which wasn’t the case, Mondragon said. “There were other people in charge. What about the CEO? What about the CFO? Mr. Aleman was vice president of the board at the time,” he said.

Interjet, which has since been sold to another investor, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The tax authority has seized properties belonging to the family for more than 1 billion pesos, Mondragon said, which should cover any due taxes.

Aleman and his father, Miguel Aleman Velasco, founded Interjet in 2005, which gained ground in Mexico as a low-cost carrier. But relentless competition, along with a decision in 2012 to buy Russian Sukhoi Superjets, led the company to insurmountable debt that resulted in most of its fleet being repossessed last year.

While Aleman Magnani is in France, “he’s not running from the law,” Mondragon said. “He’s been advised to not come to Mexico because the law states he’d be immediately arrested.” But Aleman is working to save the company, its jobs and to have the company settle what is due, he said.

Interjet was taken over late last year by Alejandro del Valle, a little-known businessman, and the airline is seeking to restructure more than $1.25 billion in debt after it halted flights last December. The company is seeking bankruptcy protection in Mexico.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s officials have made criminal enforcement of tax laws a linchpin of a crackdown that has helped shore up revenue even amid the collapse of the economy last year from the coronavirus pandemic.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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