Mexico attorney general resigns after Ferrari scandal

Mexico City (AFP) –


Mexico's attorney general Raul Cervantes resigned Monday after reports emerged he dodged taxes on a Ferrari sports car, a scandal opponents said made him unfit to lead a newly reformed criminal justice system.

Cervantes, a heavyweight in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, said on Twitter he had sent his resignation to President Enrique Pena Nieto and the senate "to avoid delaying any longer the urgent laws that Mexico needs."

A political firestorm had enveloped Cervantes after an anti-corruption watchdog reported last month he had registered his Ferrari 458 Coupe -- sticker value around $200,000 -- with a false address outside Mexico City, a ruse normally used by tax-dodgers.

Owners of luxury cars often register them outside the capital to escape an annual five percent tax on the value of the vehicle.

Cervantes's lawyer blamed the irregularity on an "administrative error" by the car dealership.

But the episode proved devastating for the prosecutor's image, at a time when he was due to take over as head of a newly independent prosecution service.

The new service is being set up under a 2013 constitutional reform that was launched to respond to public pressure for a more effective criminal justice system, in a country where murder rates are at record highs and some 99 percent of violent crimes go unpunished.

The opposition had already criticized Cervantes's appointment to the nine-year post, accusing Pena Nieto of trying to extend his power well beyond the end of his presidential term next year.

The Ferrari scandal was the icing on the cake for Cervantes's critics. But he defended himself in an appearance before the senate.

"I have no aspiration other than to serve my country honorably, in any capacity, whether public or private," he said, accusing "some politicians" of using his troubles to avoid reforming the justice system.