updated 7/27/2007 2:57:52 AM ET 2007-07-27T06:57:52

A federal grand jury indicted a Chinese-Mexican businessman Thursday on charges he conspired to help in the production of methamphetamines destined for the United States.

Zhenli Ye Gon, in whose Mexico City mansion authorities found $207 million in money allegedly tied to drugs, was part of an international conspiracy that operated in the U.S., Mexico and El Salvador, according to a one-count indictment that was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Ye Gon, owner of a pharmaceutical company, also is wanted by Mexican authorities on drug trafficking, organized crime and weapons charges. He was arrested in the Washington area on Monday.

Prosecutors said Ye Gon helped divert huge quantities of chemicals needed to manufacture methamphetamines to groups that actually made the drug and shipped it into the United States.

He could face up to life in prison if convicted, Justice Department spokeswoman Jaclyn Lesch said. Ye Gon has no prior criminal record.

He also could have to forfeit some of the millions of dollars in cash, goods and property that prosecutors believe Ye Gon is holding in this country,

Martin McMahon, one of Ye Gon’s Washington-based lawyers, has said his client has no connection to illegal drugs. McMahon did not immediately return a telephone call Thursday.

The indictment makes it much less likely that Ye Gon will face deportation to Mexico any time soon. McMahon has said the Chinese-born Ye Gon is the victim of Mexican political corruption and could not get a fair trial in his adopted home.

U.S. authorities typically do not entertain extradition requests until they have completed a criminal prosecution and, in the event of a conviction, the defendant has served his sentence.

Mistress gets money
In court papers filed in Nevada, Ye Gon’s mistress told authorities she received up to $1.5 million from him that he she used to buy a pricey home, jewelry, luxury cars and factory equipment.

Michelle Wong, a 26-year-old former casino host, said Ye Gon is the father of her 17-month-old son. Wong is accused in a criminal complaint of helping Ye Gon launder drug money. She was arrested Monday in Las Vegas and ordered transferred to Washington.

Ye Gon lost more than $125 million gambling in Las Vegas since 2004, authorities said. The Venetian hotel-casino, one of Ye Gon’s favorite resorts, gave him a Rolls-Royce, he told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

The complaint against Wong said Ye Gon flew aboard a private jet provided by The Venetian in March to Orange County, Calif., after his last trip to Las Vegas. Such perks are standard industry practice in a city competing to host the biggest gamblers, sometimes known as “whales.”

Chinese and U.S. authorities are investigating whether a breakdown in security at their ports allowed an illegal shipment reportedly carrying more than 19 tons of a chemical needed to make methamphetamine to reach Mexico, the Mexican attorney general said Thursday in Mexico City.

The shipment led to the search of Ye Gon’s home and the discovery of the $207 million, touted as the world’s largest seizure of drug money.

Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora told a news conference Thursday that investigators want to know how the shipment arrived in Mexico with false paperwork after passing through Chinese and U.S. ports.

'A falsification of documents'
Mexican agents intercepted a ship from China last year that carried more than 19 tons of a proprietary chemical that can be easily be converted into pseudoephedrine, all of it illegally imported by Ye Gon, Medina Mora said. The shipment left Hong Kong and passed through the U.S. port of Long Beach and was seized at the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas.

“There was evidently a falsification of documents that took place at some moment after the product left Chinese territory,” Medina Mora said.

Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, assistant attorney general, also questioned how Ye Gon — who lost more than $125 million gambling in Las Vegas since 2004 — did not raise suspicions by U.S. authorities.

“Tell me, how could he have broken all the anti-money laundering measures?” he told W Radio in an interview Wednesday.

FBI and U.S. customs officials did not immediately respond to messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment. Chinese officials could not immediately be reached.

Ye Gon has said the chemicals imported by his company, Unimed Pharm Chem de Mexico SA, were legitimate and intended for cold medicines.

Officials say he was building a massive factory near Mexico City to process the component for Mexican traffickers who supply about 80 percent of the methamphetamines in the U.S. market.

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