According to witness testimony during the trial of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto once accepted a $100 million bribe from drug traffickers. Alex Cifuentes, who has described himself as Guzman’s onetime right-hand man, discussed the alleged bribe under cross-examination by one of Guzman’s lawyers in Brooklyn federal court. Peña Nieto has not responded to the claim but has previously denied charges of corruption.
Cifuentes testified that he had told U.S. prosecutors Pena Nieto reached out to Guzman first, asking for $250 million, before settling on $100 million. Cifuentes told the prosecutors that the bribe was paid in October 2012, when Pena Nieto was president-elect. Pena Nieto was president of Mexico from December 2012 until November 2018 and previously served as governor of the State of Mexico. Cifuentes also testified that Guzman once told him that he had received a message from Pena Nieto saying that he did not have to live in hiding anymore.
Guzman, 61, has been on trial since November after he was extradited to the United States in 2017 to face charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the country as leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. El Chapo had eluded capture for years, in part by widespread corruption along with elaborate means of escape from authorities. He once narrowly escaped a raid at a safe house through a staircase that led to underground tunnels which was hidden under a bathtub. He was captured by Pena Nieto’s government in February 2014 but broke out of prison for a second time 17 months later, escaping through a mile-long tunnel dug right into in his cell. The jailbreak humiliated the government and damaged the president’s already questionable credibility. Pena Nieto personally announced news of the kingpin’s third capture when he was again arrested in northwestern Mexico in January 2016.
Cifuentes is one of many witnesses who have testified against Guzman so far after striking deals with U.S. prosecutors, in a trial that has opened a window into the secretive world of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organization. Many witnesses at the trial have also made accusations of high-level corruption. Much of the evidence against Guzman has come from the prosecution’s star witness, Jesús Zambada. Zambada testified that the Sinaloa cartel allegedly paid off a host of top Mexican officials to ensure their drug business ran smoothly. He testified that in 1994, traffickers paid $50 million in protection money to former Mexican Secretary of Public Security García Luna, so that corrupt officers would be appointed to head police operations. Zambada said that when former Mexico City Mayor Gabriel Regino was in line to become the next secretary of security, that the the cartel bribed him as well. Both Garcia Luna and Gabriel Regina deny the accusations. Zambada has also testified that paid a multimillion dollar bribe to an aide of current Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in 2005.
Edgar Galvan testified in that trusted hitman Antonio “Jaguar” Marrufo had a sound-proofed “murder room” in his mansion on the US border, which featured white tiles with a drain on the floor to more easily clean up after slayings. Galvan’s role in the organization was to smuggle weapons into the US, so that Marrufo could use them to “clear” the region of rivals. At the time, Galvan was living in El Paso, Texas, while Marrufo was living in Ciudad Juarez, just across the US-Mexico border. Both men are now in jail on firearms and gun charges.