Mexican president took $100m bribe from drug lord El Chapo, trial hears

16 January 2019 - 12:48
By afp
Former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.
Image: Hauke-Christian Dittrich / DPA / AFP Former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.

Former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto accepted a $100m (R1.3bn) bribe from druglord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, a former collaborator told the kingpin's trial.

Alex Cifuentes, a Colombian who is now collaborating with US prosecutors in the Chapo trial, made the statement under examination from defence attorney Jeffrey Lichtman.

"Mr. Guzman paid a bribe of $100-million to President Pena Nieto,?" the lawyer asked.

"That is right," Cifuentes responded, although later he said he was not sure of the exact amount.

"Was the message that Mr. Guzman didn't have to stay in hiding?" the lawyer asked.

Cifuentes said yes, that is what Guzman told him.

Cifuentes said he worked with the kingpin from 2007 until being arrested in 2013 and at first even lived with him for two years in the mountains of Mexico's Sinaloa region.

Guzman is accused of smuggling more than 155 tons of cocaine into the United States over a period of 25 years. If convicted, the 61-year-old could spend the rest of his life behind bars in a maximum security US prison.

When the Chapo trial began in November, Lichtman argued that Guzman was the scapegoat of corrupt Mexican governments, turncoat colleagues and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

When the defence made those arguments, Pena Nieto was still president and his office denied the charges. He was replaced in November by the newly elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

In Mexico, Francisco Guzman, who was chief of staff to Pena Nieto, on Tuesday rejected the allegations from Cifuentes.

"The statements by the Colombian drug trafficker in New York are false, defamatory and absurd," said Guzman.