Image: Zhenli Ye Gon
courtartist.com
Zhenli Ye Gon, seated at left, listens as defense attorneys and prosecutors discuss trial scheduling with Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on Thursday in Washington, D.C.. Ye Gon is accused by U.S. and Mexican authorities of conspiring to sell methamphetamine in the United States.
By Producer
NBC News
updated 8/9/2007 1:55:37 PM ET 2007-08-09T17:55:37

Government prosecutors say that it may take six months or more to gather evidence against a Chinese-born pharmaceuticals mogul indicted on charges of conspiring to make methamphetamine that would be sold in the United States.

Zhenli Ye Gon, a Mexican resident and owner of a major drug company in Mexico, is awaiting a trial date after being arrested last month in a Wheaton, Md., restaurant. A march raid at his Mexico City home netted more than $200 million in cash.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on Thursday asked prosecutors if he can set a date for Ye Gon's trial, but the Justice Department's Paul W. Laymon said prosecutors need months to gather evidence from China, Mexico, Switzerland and Germany. "This is a very complex case," Laymon told the judge.

The judge asked Ye Gon's lawyers if they would waive their client's constitutional right to a speedy trial, an option that they refused.

Sullivan acknowledged that filing the proper documents to foreign governments asking for evidence will take time and said this "sounds like mutual discovery" for both the government and defense attorneys.

The magistrate judge who ordered that Ye Gon, 44, remain in jail pending trial wrote in his memorandum that the government has provided "only thin evidence in support of its case."

Judge cites lack of evidence
Magistrate Judge Allan Kay said that "aside from the cash and weapons seized at Defendant's home, there was little before the Court at the hearing to establish Defendant's involvement in a conspiracy to import illegal drugs into the United States."

Ye Gon is also wanted in Mexico on related charges that, through his pharmaceutical business, he supplied international drug cartels with chemicals to make methamphetamine. The charges came after a raid of his Mexico City mansion, where authorities seized $207 million in cash — most of it in $100 bills that had been stashed behind false walls and in closets.

At the time of his arrest, DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said that "with the arrest of Zhenli Ye Gon, we've apprehended not only the man behind the money, but the man behind the meth. He may never have touched the drugs, but he made it all possible, facilitating the massive meth trade by brokering chemicals to kingpins."

Ye Gon's defense attorney, Martin F. McMahon, said in court that his client is the victim of an elaborate public relations campaign by the Mexican government to "label him as an international drug dealer." McMahon said Ye Gon, who maintains his innocence, cannot remain jailed indefinitely awaiting trial.

Sullivan has scheduled another hearing on Sept. 7 to resolve the detention issue and a trial date.

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