The king of cement is a fugitive from Mexican justice. The Mexican authorities have requested the collaboration of the International Organization of the International Police (Interpol) to locate and detain Guillermo Billy Álvarez, who is under an arrest warrant for organized crime and money laundering. Álvarez was the leader for more than 30 years of the Cooperativa Cruz Azul, a conglomerate that includes one of the main Mexican cement companies, a soccer club, financial services and hospitality.
The Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) froze Álvarez's accounts last May after an investigation by the Mexican Prosecutor's Office to investigate the use of money from the cooperative to allocate it to consulting services of companies that had been indicated by the Mexican treasury for carrying out simulated operations. The Mexican authorities have detected irregular operations for 1,200 million pesos (about 54 million dollars). In the first months of 2020, the Board of Directors of the cooperative filed the complaint with the Mexico City Attorney General's Office and wanted Álvarez to leave the company and face the legal consequences.
On July 30, the Attorney General's Office ordered the arrest of Álvarez after detecting a diversion of resources through a scheme of payments to shell companies. Within the company, a group of cooperative members had reported mismanagement of money for years. On August 1, an alleged resignation letter from Álvarez addressed to the cooperative members was leaked. Álvarez's support sector disdained the accusations and gave their leader a boost. This Thursday, the newspaper Milenio reported the request of the Mexican Prosecutor's Office to locate Álvarez in 195 countries. The Mexican authorities are also looking for Víctor Manuel Garcés and Miguel Eduardo Borrell, former legal directors of the cooperative; Mario Sánchez, financial director and Ángel Martín, lawyer.
One of the key witnesses in the process has been Alfredo Álvarez, Billy's brother , who is also under investigation. Both disputed the control of the cement company in 2009. During the contest Alfredo relieved the scheme of diversion of money from the cooperative to tax havens and for that reason it was suspended for seven years. Later, he returned to join the society when he returned to the board of the soccer team. Faced with the new accusations, he testified against his brother before the Prosecutor's Office and assured that the Cruz Azul soccer club had hired at least four footballers at a premium.
From the offices of the Mexican League they have closely followed the case because Guillermo Álvarez served as the manager of the Cruz Azul team. According to the statutes of the Mexican Football Federation, a club or a member can be disaffiliated in case they commit criminal acts. The Mexican League has insisted that there is no process to veto the club and that they will make a decision based on what the authorities conclude. Last November, Mexican soccer signed an agreement with the FIU to combat money laundering, after the Treasury authorities informed Mexican teams of their investigations. The Cruz Azul players have sent messages of support to Álvarez in his last games.
The fall of Billy Álvarez has deepened the cracks in the cooperative: those who defend their long-standing employer have protested on several occasions in front of the National Palace, the seat of the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador; Those who defend the Board of Directors have fought their legal battle and have demonstrated the opacity of management within the Cruz Azul Cooperative. A couple of days ago, both groups collided in a fight outside one of the main factories in the State of Hidalgo.
Cooperativa Cruz Azul had been a success story: of the cement factories they managed to build a diversified consortium of 27 different companies. Guillermo Álvarez took over as CEO in 1988, a decade after his father passed away. Since then, he has been perpetuated in office despite the fact that in 2011 a civil court had determined that the figure provided for by the General Law of Cooperative Societies and should be subject to the Board of Directors. Álvarez can face a sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.