The husband of a B.C. politician says he was held by Mexican police and had to buy his way out of custody after their rental car was struck by two motorcyclists while on holiday in mid-January.
B.C. New Democrat MLA Diane Thorne said her 78-year-old husband was driving in the city of Progresso in the state of Yucatan when their rental car was suddenly hit by two motorcycles.
"I used to be a professional race car driver," said Thorne's husband, Neil Edmonson. "And I drive constantly watching the mirrors and I never saw anybody coming."
Edmonson spent the next eight hours in police custody before a man who called himself an interpreter appeared and paid the police $250 on Edmonson's behalf.
Thorne said when she arrived at the police station, she gratefully agreed to pay the man back, but then another man claiming to be an insurance adjuster arrived and advised the couple to pay the families of the motorcyclists a total of $1,050.
Thorne agreed to pay and said police then released Edmonson.
"It was either the most amazing set of coincidences that you could imagine, or a very smooth procedure," said Thorne.
He and Thorne assume they were the victims of a scam.
They hope their experience serves as a warning to others.
Consulate issues apology
"I really think they target tourists," Edmonson said. "Specifically [those driving] rental cars."
The couple has been contacted by the Mexican consulate in Vancouver and received an apology for the incident, said Thorne.
A number of recent high-profile incidents have tarnished Mexico's reputation as a tourist destination, including most recently the serious wounding of a Penticton, B.C., man who was struck by a stray bullet during an apparent gangland slaying Jan. 16.
The Foreign Affairs Department's website says travellers should be highly cautious when travelling to Mexico and warns about extortion by police or criminals dressed as police.
An estimated 1.4 million Canadians visited Mexico in 2010, according to the department's statistics.