Mexico: Abandoned railways scrapped illegally
MEXICO CITY -- Several midlevel managers with Mexico's state railroad company are accused of stealing more than 360 miles (590 kilometers) of railroad and selling the materials to help pay off a company debt, authorities said Tuesday.
The railroad scrap, much of it high-grade steel, weighed roughly 52,000 tons (47,000 metric tons), about seven times the steel used in the Eiffel Tower, said Mexico's secretary of public administration, Salvador Vega Casillas. He said the sale of such material is prohibited and that the managers never sought permission for their actions.
The employees targeted abandoned railroads in five states, including the northern border state of Chihuahua, where 385 kilometers (239 miles) worth of rails, nails, bolts and other materials were stolen, he said.
The sale allegedly occurred from 2003 to 2005 when the state company, which faces liquidation, was unable to sell all the scrap it promised to four companies following a public auction.
To meet a nearly $800,000 debt, the five employees ordered that railroads built in the 19th and 20th centuries be dismantled, Vega said.
The secretary said the material was worth $140 million -- far more than the debt -- and yet no money was exchanged and it remains unclear what the receiving companies did with the scrap material or whether they recognized its value.
He said the attorney general's office is pursuing a criminal case against the four companies and the five suspects, which the administration has barred from serving in public positions for up to 15 years.
The investigation began after Public Administration officials uncovered contracts in 2007 related to the case, Vega said.
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