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Sempra under investigation, says Mexican press

Charges of corruption, influence-peddling, money-laundering, and organized crime

Tugs follow a liquified natural gas carrier as it prepares to dock at Sempra's Baja facility
Tugs follow a liquified natural gas carrier as it prepares to dock at Sempra's Baja facility

The Mexican press reported this past weekend that Sempra Energy is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

Imagen del Golfo, a news agency in Veracruz, reported that Sempra is being investigated for corruption, influence-peddling, money-laundering, and organized crime. Other Mexican media to report on the investigation have been La Jornada of Mexico City and Proceso.

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The investigation centers around a case that has been kicked back and forth over the past several years and reported several times in the Reader.

Rodolfo Michelon, who had a high accounting position with Sempra in Mexico, in 2011, filed a whistle-blower complaint charging that Sempra had used several dubious financial ploys — bribes, essentially — to build a liquefied natural gas plant near Ensenada. In 2003, Marathon Oil was well ahead of companies wanting to build such a plant in that area of Mexico. Suddenly, Baja condemned Marathon property.

Through a law firm, Marathon hired the international detective firm of Interfor to check out what happened. Interfor reported that the Baja governor at the time had accounts in the offshore tax and secrecy havens of Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and had been giving preferential treatment to Sempra.

However, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation permitted Sempra to hire its own law firm to investigate itself. The outcome was predictable: the law firm paid by Sempra found the company clean. Michelon's claims were dismissed. San Diego lawyers Gary Aguirre and Dan Gilleon, however, found more evidence and filed another Michelon whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Aguirre told me that a Homeland Security agent in Texas has asked him for Michelon's whistleblower complaint to the securities agency. Gilleon told me that Michelon has talked with the Homeland Security agent.

I called Sempra for comment and have not heard back. If the company comments, I will post it.

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Tugs follow a liquified natural gas carrier as it prepares to dock at Sempra's Baja facility
Tugs follow a liquified natural gas carrier as it prepares to dock at Sempra's Baja facility

The Mexican press reported this past weekend that Sempra Energy is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

Imagen del Golfo, a news agency in Veracruz, reported that Sempra is being investigated for corruption, influence-peddling, money-laundering, and organized crime. Other Mexican media to report on the investigation have been La Jornada of Mexico City and Proceso.

Sponsored
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The investigation centers around a case that has been kicked back and forth over the past several years and reported several times in the Reader.

Rodolfo Michelon, who had a high accounting position with Sempra in Mexico, in 2011, filed a whistle-blower complaint charging that Sempra had used several dubious financial ploys — bribes, essentially — to build a liquefied natural gas plant near Ensenada. In 2003, Marathon Oil was well ahead of companies wanting to build such a plant in that area of Mexico. Suddenly, Baja condemned Marathon property.

Through a law firm, Marathon hired the international detective firm of Interfor to check out what happened. Interfor reported that the Baja governor at the time had accounts in the offshore tax and secrecy havens of Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and had been giving preferential treatment to Sempra.

However, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation permitted Sempra to hire its own law firm to investigate itself. The outcome was predictable: the law firm paid by Sempra found the company clean. Michelon's claims were dismissed. San Diego lawyers Gary Aguirre and Dan Gilleon, however, found more evidence and filed another Michelon whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Aguirre told me that a Homeland Security agent in Texas has asked him for Michelon's whistleblower complaint to the securities agency. Gilleon told me that Michelon has talked with the Homeland Security agent.

I called Sempra for comment and have not heard back. If the company comments, I will post it.

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