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Witness Drops Bombshell in 'El Chapo' Trial

'Right-hand man' claims Mexican president was given $100M bribe
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2019 4:12 AM CST
Updated Jan 16, 2019 6:33 AM CST
In this courtroom sketch, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, center, sits next to his defense attorney Eduardo Balazero, left, for opening statements as Guzman's high-security trial gets underway in the Brooklyn...   (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
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(Newser) – Shocking allegations in the "El Chapo" trial: Drug lord Joaquin Guzman paid former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto $100 million to avoid recapture, and it was Peña Nieto who reached out first, a witness claimed in the trial Tuesday. Alex Cifuentes, a Colombian drug trafficker who describes himself as Guzman's former "right-hand, left-hand man," claimed that Peña Nieto initially asked for $250 million, and Guzman later boasted about paying him $100 million in October 2012, when he was still president-elect, Reuters reports. Cifuentes told the trial in federal court in Brooklyn that Peña Nieto let Guzman know he "wouldn't need to stay in hiding" if he paid up, reports CNN.

Cifuentes, who was captured in Mexico in 2013 and extradited to the US, says he spent two years hiding in the mountains with Guzman, the BBC reports. He told the trial a "friend of El Chapo" delivered the bribe to Mexico City. Peña Nieto left office in November, and his representatives have rejected the bribery allegations, noting that Guzman was captured under his government in 2014—and again in 2016, 17 months after his escape. The drug lord was extradited to the US after his recapture. "The declarations of the Colombian drug trafficker in New York are false, defamatory, and absurd," says Francisco Guzman, Peña Nieto's former chief of staff. (Last week, the jury saw Guzman's texts to his wife and mistress.)

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