Taxing problems. (Trade Talk).
Alleged tax cheat Rodolfo Arturo Rojas Padilla thought everything was fine as he flew into Mexico City from Dallas on Delta Airlines. This time, however, a squad of elite anti-terrorist agents met him at the gate. The Mexican executive's runway arrest on tax evasion charges was one of the more high-profile swoops launched by the 5,000-strong Federal Agency of Investigation, or AFT. Although the agency is more at home confronting dangerous drug barons, it wasn't the first time its elite team took on tax scofflaws. Rojas Padilla's arrest is part of a highly public campaign to round up white-collar crooks. He's accused of helping microchip company Kennen de Mexico avoid paying US$40 million in taxes in 1992, when he ran the company. Prosecutors say he faces up to nine years behind bars if convicted. Such busts mark President Vicente Fox's radical new approach for dealing with the country's biggest tax evaders, many of whom seemed untouchable. So far this year, the AFI has picked up more than two dozen businessme n, although Treasury Ministry officials decline to say how much in back taxes will be recouped. The ministry will not reveal how many more arrests are expected. Gabriel Funes, research director at Coparmex, a Mexican business group, says arrests are one thing but the government must simplify its tax code and ensure prosecutions are transparent. Still, he adds: "Anyone who commits a crime must be punished. That is clear."