July 24, 2007 / 4:47 AM / 12 years ago

U.S. arrests Chinese-Mexican suspected meth king

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The United States arrested on Monday a Mexican laboratory owner accused of helping make huge quantities of crystal meth, four months after police found $206 million cash in his Mexico City mansion.

A picture taken from a video projected on a screen shows Zhenli Ye Gon, during a press conference held by his lawyers in Washington, July 18, 2007. The United States arrested on Monday the Mexican laboratory owner accused of helping make huge quantities of crystal meth, four months after police found $206 million cash in his Mexico City mansion. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Mexico’s attorney general, Eduardo Medina Mora, said U.S. authorities had confirmed the arrest of Chinese-born Zhenli Ye Gon.

“We have received the news informally but confirmed by official sources that the arrest took place,” Medina Mora said on Mexican television network Televisa.

Mexico has requested the extradition of Ye Gon, the attorney general’s office said in a statement. He was arrested in the Washington suburb of Rockville, Maryland.

It was not immediately clear if the arrest was the result of Mexico’s request, although U.S. authorities had previously

said no warrants had been issued for Ye Gon. Mexico now has 60 days to make its case for extradition.

Mexican police in March raided a mansion owned by Ye Gon and found wads of U.S. bank notes in bulging suitcases and overflowing closets.

Seven people were arrested after that raid in the swanky Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood. It also turned up six Mercedes-Benz vehicles and pistols equipped with silencers, but Ye Gon escaped to the United States.

Ye Gon, a naturalized Mexican, is accused of importing through Mexican ports huge quantities of chemicals used to make the powerful stimulant crystal meth.

Ye Gon says he is an innocent victim of a government plot.

Mexican methamphetamine producers have muscled in on the U.S. market. So-called superlabs that mass produce the drug have sprung up across Mexico, where precursor chemicals like pseudoephedrine are more easily available.

The government recently clamped down sales of cough remedies that contain pseudoephedrine.

Police say a company run by Ye Gon illegally imported chemicals and that he was setting up a lab to make crystal meth, or methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant.

Ye Gon has caused a scandal in Mexico in recent weeks by saying a government minister forced him to hide the cash under threat of death during last year’s election campaign.

President Felipe Calderon has deployed thousands of police and soldiers across Mexico to clamp down on drug cartels since taking office in December. So far, March’s raid of Ye Gon’s house has been the only high-profile bust.

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