The American real estate riches of a disgraced Mexican governor

Javier Duarte has left a trail of multi-million-dollar investments in one of Houston’s wealthiest neighborhoods

A show home similar to Duarte's in the upscale Woodlands community, in Houston.
A show home similar to Duarte's in the upscale Woodlands community, in Houston.

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Javier Duarte – the former governor of the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, who went missing in October while the target of two federal corruption investigations – has not only left behind a $4 billion hole in the state’s budget, but has also failed to pay a number of US construction companies for homes they were building for him. He has also abandoned his team of Mexican gardeners and laborers at several properties, who will now never be paid.

The former governor, who is under investigation for illegal enrichment, embezzlement and breach of duty, invested heavily in Woodlands, a wealthy community north of Houston. The Mexican media has discovered several properties bought under his name and those of family members. So far, another 19 properties have been found in Miami.

The Mexican authorities believe Duarte is still in Mexico

Duarte, of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), took office in December 2010, but amid a soaring crime rate, he was accused of financial mismanagement and corruption.

Eventually it was revealed he and other state officials in Veracruz had diverted millions of dollars into shell companies.

It then came to light that Duarte had bought properties in the United States at prices far beyond their salaries would have permitted.

Among these is the spectacular house at 119 Simon Lake Lane, Woodlands, in one of the most recently developed and wealthiest areas of the upscale community. Less than a dozen homes stand on two streets cut through the woods. The $2.5 million property is half finished and half-paid for.

It has marble flooring, two television rooms, four bedrooms with walk-in closets and baths, a wine cellar and a courtyard with a fountain. Mexican laborers have been working on it since January and this week they were putting in the garden.

The interior of a show home similar to Duarte's.
The interior of a show home similar to Duarte's.

Duarte was also building another home at 83 Birch Canoe Drive in Creekside Park, near Lone Star College-University’s campus and Creekview Elementary School. The property is registered in his sister-in-law’s name and is priced at $720,000, according to Mexican financial daily El Financiero, which it says is the average cost of the homes in this wealthy neighborhood that has become particularly popular with Mexican millionaires. El Financiero reported in July that Duarte and his wife were also members of the Woodlands Country Club.

There were two four-wheel drive vehicles parked at Birch Canoe on Wednesday, along with a motorcycle in the garage. The house is finished and occupied, though neighbors say they did not know if the residents were Duarte family members or were renting the property. The former governor is well known in Woodlands as an investor with as many as 36 properties.

In early October, Duarte announced he was standing down two months ahead of the end of his term in office after the PRI lost control of the state of Veracruz for the first time in its history in June elections. The Mexican authorities believe Duarte is still in Mexico, but federal prosecutors have prepared an international arrest warrant from Interpol.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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