In the latest chapter in the trail of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a witness said the drug kingpin paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The shocking testimony came from Guzman’s former “right-hand man” Alex Cifuentes who claims the payment took place two months before Peña Nieto became the president of Mexico in 2012. According to the New York Times, Cifuentes worked closely with El Chapo from 2007 to 2013.
Alex Cifuentes, who worked closely with El Chapo, told a Brooklyn court that the former Mexican president had originally asked for $250 million.
The allegations of corruption against the Mexican government are nothing new as Peña Nieto left office last year with a string of scandals that left him and his administration with low-approval ratings. While Peña Nieto has yet to deny these claims, a spokesman for Peña Nieto called the bribery story “false and defamatory”.
“You gave a story that Mr. Guzman paid a bribe to Mr. Peña Nieto of $100 million,” Guzman’s lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman asked Cifuentes during cross-examination in Brooklyn federal court, referring to his prior discussions with US authorities. “That’s right,” Cifuentes responded.
Cifuentes previously said Guzman had paid Peña Nieto with a $250 million bribe, however during his testimony, he told the court that Nieto had requested $250 million, but accepted El Chapo’s counter offer of $100 million.
During his testimony Tuesday, Cifuentes said the bribe was made so El Chapo wouldn’t have to worry about getting caught with this drug business.
In court, Lichtman said that in prior meetings in April 2016 and November 2017, Cifuentes told U.S. prosecutors that Peña Nieto had reached out to Guzman in 2012. Cifuentes says Peña Nieto, who was elected that year, told Guzman if he gave him the money, he wouldn’t have to worry about his drug business.
“The message was that Mr. Guzman didn’t have to stay in hiding?” Lichtman asked about the terms of the bribe. “Yes. That very thing is what Joaquin said to me,” Cifuentes said in his response.
It was during Peña Nieto’s term that Guzman was captured by Mexican authorities in 2014 only for him to escape before being caught again in 2016. He was then extradited to the US to face charges of drug trafficking and murder.
Peña Nieto might not be the only Mexican president who was working with the drug cartels.
Lichtman said Cifuentes told prosecutors in 2016 that Guzman’s rival drug gang, the Beltran-Leyva cartel, was paying former Mexican President Felipe Calderon for military protection against him. As of now, Cifuentes doesn’t recall saying that. According to Rolling Stone, Cifuentes did claim though that Guzman was working with the Mexican authorities in some capacity. Guzman would send suitcases filled with cocaine from Argentina to Mexican federal police, who would then sell the drugs themselves.
“I was working with my wife, Angie San Clemente, and working with the Mexican Federal Police with Señor Guzmán’s authorization,” Cifuentes said. “And you claimed the police would then sell the drugs, correct?” Lichtman asked. “You said the police were the customers of the drug dealers?”
“Yes,” Cifuentes responded.
If El Chapo is convicted he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Peña Nieto’s former chief of staff, Francisco Guzman, denied the allegations on Tuesday evening on Twitter.
“The statements of the Colombian drug trafficker in New York are false, defamatory and absurd. The government @EPN was the one who located, arrested and extradited Joaquín Guzmán Loera. Since the beginning of the administration, it was a priority objective of the security cabinet.”
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s new president, ran a campaign on the platform of anti-corruption and won in a landslide last year. The trial so far has exposed many scandals and allegations of bribes in Mexico and Columbia that include police commanders and government officials. This probably won’t be the last we hear of this and this could spell serious trouble for Peña Nieto if the claims are true.
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