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Mexico Rejects Extradition Request

February 8, 1999

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mexico on Sunday rejected an American extradition request for five men wanted in the largest money-laundering case in U.S. history, saying it would instead try them here.

The five were named as suspects in the May 1998 Casablanca sting, a U.S. operation that strained relations with Mexico, which said it had not been notified about American operations on its soil.

A joint news release by the Foreign Secretariat and the Attorney General’s Office said the Casablanca operation was ``condemned by Mexico″ and that it had harmed cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking.

In the two-year Casablanca operation, U.S. officials lured about 40 Mexican and Venezuelan businessmen, bankers and alleged drug cartel members to the United States and arrested them.

An additional 70 people are fugitives in the case, which alleges that tens of millions of dollars in illegal drug profits for the Cali cartel of Colombia and Mexico’s Juarez cartel were shipped through phony transactions to Mexican-owned banks.

The Mexican attorney general’s office earlier threatened to bring charges against U.S. agents in the case who had operated in Mexico. But on Sunday it said it had been unable to find proof they had committed any crimes under existing laws.

As a result, the two agencies said they would seek to modify Mexican laws to outlaw such operations.

The five suspects were identified as Gildardo Martinez Lopez, Carlos Escoto Alcala, Miguel Barba Martin, Jorge Milton Diaz and Jose Sergio Calderon Fernandez.

All are under arrest in Mexico, where they face charges of money laundering and organized crime.

U.S. indictments identified several of the men as administrators at bank branches in various Mexican cities, and accused them of involvement in laundering drug money.

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