A Danish man who spent a traumatic year in a Mexican jail returned home to his family yesterday.
Hamza Karroum, 48, was arrested while on holiday in Rioverde, Mexico, last December by police investigating a complicated gang-related fraud case in which over 100 Mexicans were defrauded of money, land, jewellery and vehicles to the value of about 220,000 kroner.
Karroum denied the charges from the outset. He was supported by witnesses who appeared on Mexican television, while Karroum argued that he could not have been in Mexico long enough to have carried out such a widespread fraud operation.
“I don’t even speak Spanish,” Karroum told TV2 in February. “I was on a short holiday in Mexico to recover from an illness. I landed in the country on November 26 last year after being in Cuba and was planning on being home for Christmas. Then I was suddenly arrested by police and presented with these crazy accusations. How could I have created such a complicated fraud operation in only a few weeks as the police claim?”
Despite all the evidence that supported his innocence, it took over a year for a Mexican court to release him.
“He was just incredibly unlucky and was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Denmark’s ambassador to Mexico, Susanne Rumohr Hækkerup, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
According to Hækkerup, the burden of evidence is the reverse in Mexico compared to Denmark, so it was up to Karroum to prove his innocence.
Karroum explained that he was threatened and assaulted while in jail and was unable to buy clean bottled water like the other prisoners.
The tap water was so filthy that it was not an option to drink it and so Karroum had to beg for water from his fellow inmates.
Following his release, Karroum’s brother praised the Foreign Ministry for its handling of the case.
“The Foreign Ministry has done a great job placing a lot of pressure on Mexico,” Nasser Kahroum told Jyllands-Posten.
Karroum arrived back in Copenhagen on a flight from Paris yesterday afternoon.
Following Karroum's case, the Foreign Ministry urged Danish travellers to take extra precautions while travelling in Mexico.