Mexican Tycoon Sought in $3.3 Million Tax-Fraud Probe

A Mexican court has issued an arrest warrant on tax fraud charges for one of the founders of Mexican airline Interjet as the nation’s president targets an elite group that he calls corrupt.

Miguel Aleman Magnani, 55, is accused of not paying 65 million pesos ($3.3 million) in taxes the airline collected from customers and employees but failed to forward to the government, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the charges haven’t been publicly announced. Further charges may be forthcoming, the person said.

Two others familiar with the matter also confirmed that charges had been leveled against Aleman.

The move is part of a widespread tax crackdown by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who says that Mexico’s richest have fleeced the nation for decades. It also a sharp change in his relationship with Aleman, who was an ally to the president at the start of his administration.

A representative of the Aleman family didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. Interjet declined to comment. Mexico’s El Universal newspaper first published reports of the arrest warrant.

Mexican Tycoon Sought in $3.3 Million Tax-Fraud Probe

Aleman is a descendant of a Mexican president and he hosted a recurring business conference with his father that was built on the model of the Davos gathering. He was also part of a council of business advisers created by Lopez Obrador when he took office in 2018.

Aleman and his father, Miguel Aleman Velasco, founded Interjet in 2005 and gained ground 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.

Last year, a government official told Bloomberg that Interjet owed 6.2 billion pesos to the government, including 2.9 billion pesos in taxes. One of the people familiar with the case said that Aleman Velasco could also face charges.

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 in the process of seeking bankruptcy protection in Mexico.

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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