Businessman killed in Mexico had criminal record

An Ottawa-area man whose burned-out rental car was found in Mexico with human remains in the trunk had a criminal record in Canada, CBC News has learned.
Family members say Daniel Dion's body was found in the trunk of this burned-out rental car on the side of the highway north of Acapulco, Mexico. ((CBC))
An Ottawa-area man whose burned-out rental car was found in Mexico with human remains in the trunk had a criminal record in Canada, CBC News has learned.

The family of Daniel Dion, who ran a business that manufactured "eco" purses out of recycled materials as part of an inmate rehabilitation program in Mexico, are still awaiting DNA results to confirm the identity of the remains found in the rental car. But they are convinced the remains are Dion's after recognizing a blackened watch found in the car alongside charred human bones.

Dion, 51, of Carleton Place, Ont., was convicted in 1993 on one count of possession of a concealed weapon, one count of marijuana possession and one count of production of marijuana. Between 1982 and 1996, he faced at least 45 charges, including a number of drug- and gun-related counts. He was acquitted on most of the charges, a check of his criminal record has shown.

In 2009, Dion applied for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

Despite his checkered past, family and friends described Dion as a gifted entrepreneur and a warm person.

He was last seen leaving a restaurant in Acapulco at about 2 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, accompanied by three men, according to local reports.

Family believe Dion was executed

Dion, who is originally from Sherbrooke, Que., was recently quoted in the Mexican press talking about his influence in the judicial system. He told a newspaper that if a prisoner tried to rob him, he could arrange to transfer him to a tougher jail.

He was paying the more than 2,000 prisoners who worked for him well above the wage usually granted in the inmate rehabilitation program, his sister Johanne Dion said.

Daniel Dion was last seen on Saturday, Oct. 23, leaving an Acapulco restaurant with three other men, reports say. ((CBC))

Speaking in French, Johanne Dion said it's likely that the wages her brother paid to inmates made it difficult for other businesses to compete.

His daughter, Catherine-Elizabeth Dion, believes her father might have known the people who killed him.

She said her mother told her that two days before her father disappeared, an article about his business was published in an Acapulco newspaper in which he criticized the lack of help he was getting to expand his business.

In a statement, Dion's family said they believe he was the victim of a contract execution.

Frustrated by slow investigation

Members of Dion's family began arriving in Acapulco a week ago in an effort to find him after not having heard from him in four days.

They tracked down the car rental agency Dion had used and discovered that the white Volkswagen Jetta he had rented was equipped with a GPS device.

The global positioning system had gone dead the previous Sunday, so the rental agency had dispatched a tracking company, which found the charred remains of the car on a dirt road more than 100 kilometres north of Acapulco.

The trackers thought they saw human remains inside, but never contacted police, family members said.

It wasn't until Dion's family got the car's exact location from an insurance company that armed police officers escorted them to the scene. That was Saturday, almost a week after the car was found.

They'll remain in Mexico, awaiting the results of forensic testing to confirm what they say they already know. Then they plan to bring Dion home.

Dion's family also said Sunday they were frustrated by the slow pace of investigations by Mexican police and Canadian consular officials.

The Mexican Embassy in Ottawa released a statement late Monday saying Mexico's government supports Dion's family and will closely monitor the investigation into his disappearance.

"From the moment that information was received regarding Mr. Dion's disappearance, the Mexico-Canada Consular Rapid Response Mechanism was activated. In this framework, Mexican authorities have been working with Canadian authorities to follow developments in the case," the statement reads.

With files from The Canadian Press