Mexico's securities regulator has slapped broadcaster TV Azteca and two of its top executives with fines totaling $2.3 million for committing fraud in a complex debt-refinancing deal at its mobile tel


MEXICO CITY (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Mexico's securities regulator has slapped broadcaster TV Azteca and two of its top executives with fines totaling $2.3 million for committing fraud in a complex debt-refinancing deal at its mobile telephone unit Unefon.

Mexico's Banking and Securities Commission spokesman Miguel Angel Garza said April 29 that TV Azteca was notified about the fines the day before. The authority is Mexico's equivalent of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Garza added that for the time being the commission was only applying economic sanctions.

Azteca chairman Ricardo Salinas and several business partners were charged with refinancing Unefon's debt for personal profit at the expense of shareholders.

TV Azteca also made its own announcement April 28 about the fine and broadcast a news report about it on the previous night.

It was unclear if the network knew about the sanctions prior to the news conference at which it announced that it had filed criminal charges against finance minister Francisco Gil Diaz. Mexico's No. 2 network claimed Gil Diaz issued threats in a bid to prohibit the network from broadcasting a news program that investigated a leading financial group's alleged involvement in a banking scandal. The televised program, entitled "Mitos y Hechos" (Myths and Facts), aired April 26.

In a statement released late April 27, the finance ministry denied the accusation and said Salinas was trying to obstruct and cover up the securities probe.

"[The accusation] is not only false, but unbelievably, it's completely the reverse of what happened in reality," the statement said.

Because Azteca's shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange as well as the Mexican Bolsa, the company also is facing civil charges in the U.S. The SEC headed the investigation stateside.

In January, the SEC concluded that Salinas and two executives took part "in an elaborate scheme to conceal Salinas' role in a series of transactions, through which he personally profited $109 million."

In the company's statement on April 28, Azteca said it will appeal the sanctions.

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