This is the English translation of an article published on the website “Sin Embargo”. A link to the original article is here.
PART Three: Monex, the foundation of an empire; the party of frauds and the long criminal history
It is not from now. The Monex brand has been associated with many frauds. It shines in an impressive amount of records that speak of money laundering of high flights, but in addition to a capacity, also surprising, to triangulate operations. At least that is what the records of the authorities say not only in Mexico, but also abroad. It is the same firm that the PRI used during the presidential elections of 2012.
The story below tells how this empire melted …
Sergio Ronay. Photo: File / Still
PART Three: | See Part Two here
Mexico City, Feb 7 (Sin embargo) .- The air was missing the man already in years. The oscillation of his face from stupefaction to anger while holding the phone, forced everything to remain silent in the offices of Casa de Cambio Alameda.
“Monex, issuer of the check, requested the payment stop – stop payment -“, heard Luis Leos Cárdenas, representative of Alameda, say across the line to an executive of Southern California Bank in San Diego.
He hung up and remembered that there was another check, drawn by the same amount of 300 thousand dollars and also bought at the exchange house of his greatest trust, Monex. Leos asked to be reported to American Express Bank in New York. Likewise, the check was priceless. The reason: the cancellation of the account was hardly turned over the document.
That day, February 21, 1991, Leos Cárdenas telephoned the brothers Silvio and Mauricio Berger Seifman, owners of the defrauded exchange firm.
It was impossible to understand.
The Bergers shared a half-century relationship with the Ronays, owners of Monex Mexicana.
Both prospered as jewelers in Madero Street of the Historic Center. And it was Carlos Ronay, head of the family, who approached Silvio and Mauricio in 1985, former investors in the money exchange business, to create an alliance and not compete for the proximity of their establishments.
And, distrust aside, Monex had everything in order.
It was constituted on October 22, 1980. In the documents presented by the company to prove the legal existence of the company, the brothers Jorge Alfredo, Sergio and Frank Ronay Chayet, sons of Carlos Ronay; Susana Yenton Starr, and a woman absolutely unknown in the financial environment, Bertha Alcaraz, widow of Martínez. At that time, Monex had its offices on Avenida Horacio 124, 11th floor, Colonia Polanco.
Considered inflation, was a company that had solvency and achieved growth. It started with a capital of 100 thousand pesos that grew to 4 thousand 500 million pesos in 1991.
The families maintained the sale of currencies, particularly dollars in their different instruments. In those years, the frequent way of operating the exchange relationship consisted of the telephone request of the buyer to the seller. If there were conditions, the exchange rate was fixed. The buyer delivered a check in pesos to a Mexican bank and received a document in dollars against a US bank. They were the beginnings of electronic banking and several days passed until the dollars were credited in favor of the exchange house that sent it.
Among the exchange houses with solid relationships, transactions were standardized with normal checks.
That’s why Luis Leos had to distrust him from the beginning, when he arrived at Monex with a normal check in hand and Sergio Ronay, as if dealing with a stranger, thickened the voice:
-Mr. Leos, I present my father, Carlos Ronay.
The envoy of Alameda supposed a joke and extended the document to continue the exchange.
-Do not. We need you to give us a cashier’s check.
The game lost grace and Leos felt that shame that weighs on who is subject of distrust. The dollars were urgent for his house of exchange and he made the swing of his bank branch to Monex. He delivered the document for immediate collection, almost cash.
So, when on February 27 they told him about the Southern California Bank to tell him that his trustworthy dollar seller had ordered the payment to be stopped and remembered all of the above, Leos was more inclined to anger than stupefaction.
At noon on February 27, Silvio and Mauricio rushed to the offices of Monex. The reception was occupied by angry customers. Around three o’clock in the afternoon, the Bergers and Leos entered the office of the general management. They faced Carlos Ronay and his son Sergio.
-We are sorry for what happened, especially for being friends, but we were disappointed by Zardain coffee growers. We lost 2 million dollars and we can not return the money – explained any of the Ronay.
The Bergers were stunned.
“We’re going to file a complaint for fraud against you,” they threatened.
-Do whatever you want. We’re going bankrupt. If they continue to bother, they will charge, at most, eight to 10 cents for every dollar, “Sergio said, according to Mauricio and Silvio.
It was useless to continue the discussion. The Berger brothers left the office and walked to the elevator. Through an accessory door, they saw Sergio leave his office. He had in his hand his Tallit, a shawl that in the Jewish tradition is given by a father to his son and that is used for morning prayer. Mauricio Berger was certain of the imminent disappearance of that man.
Two officials of Monex responsible for the preparation of the checks, Ricardo Raya and Annete Jenton, accompanied the red face Berger to the elevator.
-We are sorry, but we received orders from Carlos and Sergio Ronay to demand certified checks in pesos and to sign the checks of the Bank of California and American Express when they ordered not to pay them -said one of them, according to the coincident statements of Silvio and Mauricio.
-We are going to have to flee- the other would advance.
The Ronays left another loose end. They neglected the situation of Bertha Alcaraz, widow of Martínez, her partner.
In reality, Martínez’s widow never knew that her name appeared as a member of a company in which, sometimes, not even the minimum salary paid, she would complain herself.
The woman started working with Carlos Ronay in 1952 at the Madero 14 jewelry store. The businesses grew and the Ronays opened a workshop at the top of the store, but with entry by Filomeno Mata 18. The goldsmith’s shop was called Barrocos. Almost three decades later, Bertha was sent to work for Monex, until the day when the only issue was the fraud committed against anyone who happened to walk through the door.
For those same days, the end of February, and the return of her lunch hour, Bertha was received at the exchange with the news that she should refrain from going to the store and spend a season at the Centennial Villas, property of the Ronay family in Acapulco, in Costera Miguel Alemán.
– Why? – She wanted to find out with Frank Ronay, who, as far as is clear from the document, was the least involved with the exchange house.
-I do not know why they are running away. If you want to return to Mexico, your house will be your golden cage. From there do not leave.
After a month and a half in Acapulco, the widow lost contact with the Ronays. He came back to hear from them when the public prosecutor and the judge demanded him to detail why his company was a trap factory. “I was never part of society. Until now I know that my name is there. They paid me the minimum and sometimes not even that. “
He gave another detail of the business style of the founder of Monex:
(Supporting documents can be viewed on the original web article)
“Apart from the activity of Carlos Ronay as a money changer, I am aware that he had other illicit activities. He asked for merchandise in view of Silvio Berger, such as emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, rubies and other legitimate gemstones, which he exchanged for stones of lesser quality than he had in advance; Carlos Ronay was left with the good stones and returned the bad saying he was not interested in the lot.
Monex executives were out of control. Surprising young and old businesses, old and new customers, similar to the branch or distant activities.
Valué, another house of change, suffered a setback for 2 million dollars. The Antara Jewelry, an importer of gems from Mumbai, India, ran into a trick that made her lose $ 7,450. An acquaintance of decades bought a check of $ 477 to cover his life insurance and, again, it was a trick. An electronics company got a $ 10 thousand disappointment.
Sergio lost control like a broken dam spills the water. One of his workers was ordered to exchange a check of almost 2 thousand 500 million old pesos in Banca Mifel. In the middle of the delay to resolve the precedence of the document, the employee searched by telephone to Ronay.
-It’s weird, they never make me wait so long- he said.
“Break the check as soon as you can,” ordered the businessman.
The instruction is known, because the worker told the anecdote before the judge. Not only spoke. He also handed over the four pieces in which he broke the paper.
Public prosecutors and judges from the Federal District began to set up consignments and arrest warrants. They integrated criminal cases 142/91, 144/91, 131/91, 132/91, 93/91, 107/91 and 108/91 for a dozen frauds against Sergio Ronay.
However, he has a copy of all those documents.
Carlos Ronay Shoogen said of the whole thing:
“I never had to see at all with Monex. It is a plot of the people affected to get involved in the vilest way for a mistake of a child who can not be charged and trying to charge the person who had nothing to do at all, based on an endless and saying: we can not charge the son, we are going to charge the father. “
And it was still to discover the travesty of the Ronay, the aspect of deceit that would be fundamental in the history of Monex and, consequently and to say the contemporary opposition of the PRI, the political present.
On February 25 and 26, 1991, Monex wrote two checks in favor of Divisas Lomas for the amounts of 750 thousand and 500 thousand dollars and charged to the already non-existent American Express account in New York.
The Ronays had gone very far. Not only because of all the above, but more importantly, Divisas Lomas was owned by the Beteta family, a surname of the first division of Mexican politics. General Ignacio M. Beteta was a revolutionary soldier and chief of staff of President Lázaro Cárdenas del Río. A nephew of his, Ramón Beteta Quintana, was secretary of the Treasury in the time of Miguel Alemán Valdés.
In the years of the Monex frauds, Mario Ramón Beteta Monsalve was the most exalted man with that surname. He had been general director of Credit of the same Ministry of Finance, undersecretary under President Luis Echeverría Álvarez and secretaries Hugo Margáin and José López Portillo, whom he relieved in the ownership of the secretariat when the latter left office to be a candidate for presidency. Yes: it supplied López Portillo, although soon after the Beteta family repudiated any economic proposal that could be described as populist.
Lopez Portillo appointed him general director of Banco Mexicano SOMEX, a position he held throughout the six years. In 1982, Miguel de la Madrid appointed him general director of Petróleos Mexicanos, where he remained until 1987, when the presidency imposed him as a candidate of the PRI for the governorship of the State of Mexico, which he won without any problems. But his government staggered after the federal elections of 1988, adverse in the Edomex for Carlos Salinas, who sent Beteta to Comermex and then to the National Fund for Tourism Promotion.
Beteta’s curriculum clearly shows his knowledge and influence on the Mexican public and private financial system and, ultimately, on the judicial system. In the directory of Divisas Lomas appeared the names of Ignacio Beteta Vallejo, Armando Beteta Monsalve and María Eugenia Casas Azcárraga. The businessmen sought to directly resolve the disagreement with Carlos Ronay.
– Young people, my son Sergio already I have it saved out of here while I fix all this problem. While they will recover 20 cents for each dollar.
The Beteta did not hesitate.
With all the available resources, they did the work of the public ministry and this only involved delivering the documentation obtained as their investigation. The accusations included the crimes of criminal association, falsification of declarations and generic fraud, “committed through machinations and simulation of legal acts”.
WHAT DID THE BETETA SPEAK ABOUT?
From the beginning of February, the Ronay decided to break their company and began preparations to declare the bankruptcy of Monex. On February 21, they resolved the strike by means of an extraordinary assembly and by unanimous vote. Six days later, the company went to the Third Court of the Federal District Bankruptcy to request the suspension of payments, “constituting”, according to the criminal file, “the culmination of a series of artifices carried out by the partners of the company to obtain a profit or economic benefit for the suspension of payments in the irregular terms in which it was requested and obtained “.
More details. Monex was established with an initial capital of 100 thousand pesos. In 10 years it increased its capital to reach 4 thousand 500 million pesos. After the audit made to the company, the amounts simply did not add up.
“All increases (capital) have as a common denominator the not being supported accounting in the books of society, so that they were not made in reality and only occurred in the minutes with the purpose of deceiving third parties who, of good faith, they maintained commercial relations with Monex “.
The bankruptcy court had admitted a document with partially blank papers, when the empty parts had to be canceled; trades crafted in pencil, and lacking annual statements of income tax.
“(In addition to) consider ostensibly irregular and fraudulent the request and declaration of the suspension of payments, it was necessary to take into account that neither the application nor the declaration of the suspension of payments was based on factual situation that could validate the action of the applicants for the suspension (…) allowing the breach of their financial obligations “.
The irony always manages to appear: Monex, the company that dared to break the law to harm the interests of a former PRI governor of the State of Mexico is the same one that benefited a former PRI governor of the State of Mexico, also illegally , according to the political opposition.
What happened to the alleged fraud suffered by the Zardain coffee growers for 2 million dollars, an excuse to commit all the others? The Zardain held in court not owed anything to the Ronay whose frauds reached an amount of 10 million dollars.
Sergio Ronay fled. Some of its creditors accepted a negotiated agreement with Carlos Ronay, the merchant of Madero. But not all. He was arrested and, exactly nine years after the frauds, the 34th Criminal Court of Mexico City ordered a formal prison sentence against him for the swindle at Casa de Cambio Tíber.
It is worth remembering the Tiber case. The exchange house was constituted on March 1, 1990 before the notary public Alberto T. Sánchez Colín. On March 15, 1991, the representative of that business, Rodolfo Beguerisse Demongin, denounced Monex for the issuance of an unpayable check for 300 thousand dollars.
At that time, Sergio Ronay had fled outside of Mexico. They found him in Miami on February 15, 2000. The US government granted his extradition to Mexico for trial.
Shortly after the scams, the Ronays were forced to sell Monex. The company welcomed its main shareholders. The dozens of movements before the Public Registry of Property of the DF occurred, in their majority, before the faith of the same notary public, Alberto T. Sánchez Colín. The irony again: The current regional director south of Monex is Rodolfo Beguerisse Demongin, the young money-changer indignant with the fraud that he had been victimized by a company to which he would give his services.
At the end of April 2011, Monex launched a corporate tower on Paseo de la Reforma, in the financial heart of Mexico. They celebrated 25 years of existence of Monex – although the documents go back to the existence of the signature until 1980.
In front of Guillermo Babatz, then president of the National Banking and Securities Commission; Gerardo Rodríguez, former undersecretary of Finance and Public Credit, and Agustín Carstens, governor of the Bank of Mexico, spoke Héctor Lagos Dondé, president and “founder” – so it was presented at the evening – of Monex:
“Our new home is proof of the pride, growth and evolution that Monex has had. As CEO of Monex, since its founding I feel very proud of what we have achieved together in our company and the valuable team of collaborators we have formed “. *