Ex-Officials in Mexico Tied to Drug Lord, Report Asserts
U.S. investigators tracing more than $9 million they seized from the Texas bank accounts of a former Mexican deputy attorney general in 1995 have linked him and the family of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari to a Mexican drug trafficker, a Mexico City magazine reported Sunday.
The muckraking news weekly Proceso said it based its report on official U.S. government documents detailing witnesses’ testimony in a U.S. civil case pending in Houston against former Deputy Atty. Gen. Mario Ruiz Massieu. Proceso said the documents will be among the evidence presented to a federal grand jury in Texas beginning March 10.
Salinas’ Mexico City lawyer was quoted Sunday as saying the report was “absolutely absurd.”
The magazine gave no indication whether the documents had been filed in U.S. federal court, and their authenticity could not be independently verified Sunday.
If authentic, however, they would be the first indication of direct links between Ruiz Massieu and Raul Salinas de Gortari--the former president’s elder brother--and drug lord Juan Garcia Abrego, who was sentenced to life in prison in Houston last month for smuggling tons of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds through the U.S. and Mexican economies.
Witnesses testifying against Garcia Abrego during his U.S. federal trial said he had paid millions of dollars in bribes to Mexican prosecutors and police commanders to protect his Gulf cartel’s drug-smuggling operation--corruption of the kind that U.S. officials say helps Mexico’s drug cartels supply up to three-fourths of the South American cocaine sold in the U.S.
But none of those witnesses tied Garcia Abrego to Ruiz Massieu, Raul Salinas or other top present and former Mexican officials. And as recently as last month, Tony Canales, the Texas defense attorney who represents both Garcia Abrego and Ruiz Massieu, told reporters he knew of no evidence linking Garcia Abrego to either Ruiz Massieu or Raul Salinas.
Ruiz Massieu, who has denied any links to the drug trade, does not face criminal charges in the Texas case. He is charged in Mexico with obstructing justice and illegal enrichment and is under house arrest in New Jersey pending an extradition case there.
One of the documents published here Sunday cited six meetings between 1990 and 1994 in which the former Mexican prosecutor allegedly received drug money. Proceso said the document is the Spanish-language translation of detailed answers to questions that attorney Canales posed to the assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the civil case against Ruiz Massieu.
At one of those meetings in 1994, Proceso said, the documents show that Garcia Abrego was present when Ruiz Massieu allegedly got $2 million to guarantee the drug lord’s freedom. It said Raul Salinas attended another meeting with Ruiz Massieu and drug traffickers at the elder Salinas’ ranch in which $4 million in drug money was paid.
Raul Salinas has been jailed for the past two years on charges he masterminded the murder of a top ruling party official--Ruiz Massieu’s brother. He also was charged with illegal enrichment after investigators linked him to more than $100 million in cash in European bank accounts. He has denied all the charges, and his lawyers insist he has no links to Mexico’s multibillion-dollar drug trade.
Former President Salinas, who is living in self-exile in Ireland, has not been charged with any wrongdoing. The former president denied any ties to drug trafficking in a recent interview with Reforma newspaper, which reported Proceso’s findings in detail Sunday.
But Proceso published what it said were two additional U.S. federal documents that it claimed implicated not only the ex-president but also his father in the drug trade.
Proceso said the additional documents were heavily censored transcripts of FBI interviews with two witnesses, one of them Magdalena Ruiz Pelayo, who Proceso said was interviewed in a U.S. federal prison. The magazine quoted her as telling FBI agents that she personally delivered drug money to Ruiz Massieu and knew of links between drug kingpins and the Salinas brothers’ father, Raul Salinas Lozano.
The magazine said a second witness, identified by Proceso only as “TC,” told U.S. investigators that Garcia Abrego was paying at least $15 million a month in bribes for protection of his drug shipments.
The same witness reportedly described several social gatherings that included not only Ruiz Massieu, Garcia Abrego and Raul Salinas but also the former president during his years in office, from December 1988 to December 1994.