‘El Chapo’ paid former Mexican president $100M bribe, court witness claims

The Associated Press

Former Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman once paid $100 million to bribe ex-Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the Sinaloa cartel chief's former right hand man testified in a NY court on Tuesday.

Alex Cifuentes (L), a close associate of the accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman (R-front) is seen testifying in this courtroom sketch in Brooklyn federal court in NY, U.S., January 15, 2019.

A spokesman for Nieto called the bribery claim "false and defamatory" when it first came up earlier in the trial, according to The Associated Press.

Cifuentes told the court he informed United States authorities of the bribe in 2016.

Guzman's lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, also confronted Cifuentes with his prior statements about another debriefing a year ago where Cifuentes questioned his own memory about the circumstance of the bribe.

Defence attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, left, cross-examines Alex Cifuentes, a close associate of Guzman, in this sketch of court proceedings on Tuesday. Pena Nieto was unable to be reached for comment.

According to reporters in the Brooklyn courthouse, Nieto, who served as the president of Mexico from 2012 to 2018, had requested Dollars 250 million before settling for USD 100 million.

Cifuentes also said testified that Guzman once told him he had received a message from Pena Nieto saying he did not have to live in hiding anymore.

The 61-year-old drug lord made headlines twice for breaking out of prison, including escaping through a mile-long tunnel in 2015.

The president personally announced the news of his recapture in January 2016.

Colombian-born Cifuentes is one of about a dozen witnesses who have so far testified against Guzman after striking deals with USA prosecutors, in a trial that has provided a window into the secretive world of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the world's most powerful drug trafficking organization.

The Cifuentes statement was not the first time a witness at the trial has claimed high-level corruption.

Cifuentes said that Guzman ordered him to kill the cartel's communications expert, Christian Rodriguez, after learning that he was cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was replaced in November by the newly elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

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