El Chapo Paid $100 Million Bribe to Former Mexican President Pena Nieto, Drug Lord's Close Associate Says

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 New York court on Tuesday.

Under cross-examination by one of Guzman's lawyers, Colombian-born Alex Cifuentes, a self-described close associate of the accused drug lord and member of the Sinaloa Cartel, confirmed he told authorities in 2016 about the arrangement but admitted he didn't know when the alleged bribe occurred.

"Mr. Guzman paid a bribe of $100 million to President Pena Nieto?" Guzman's attorney Jeff Lichtman asked the witness. "Yes," Cifuentes replied.

Starting last November, 61-year-old Guzman has been on trial in a Brooklyn federal court after being extradited to America in 2017 to face drug trafficking charges, involving the movement of large quantities of cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the country. Guzman allegedly founded the Sinaloa Cartel, an international money laundering, drug trafficking and organized crime network that was established during the mid-1980s, and widely considered one of the world's most powerful illicit drug organizations.

Lichtman, one of Guzman's lawyers, accused Mexican officials, including Pena Nieto, in November of agreeing to bribes in order to protect Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, another notorious drug gang trafficker. When the allegation was first made, Pena Nieto rebuked the claims as "false and defamatory," while his predecessor, who was also accused, condemned the remarks as "absolutely false and reckless."

Pena Nieto served as Mexico's president from December 2012 to November 2018, having previously served in the State of Mexico as Secretary of Administration, Representative and State Governor.

The Cifuentes statement was not the first time a witness at the trial has claimed high-level corruption. In November, Sinaloa Cartel member Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla, also known as El Vicentillo, testified he paid an aide of current Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador a multimillion dollar bribe in 2005. Genaro Garcia Luna, the aide in question, dismissed the allegation as "defamation."

Newsweek reached out to Guzman's legal representatives on Tuesday for comment but did not immediately receive a response. Pena Nieto was unable to be reached for comment.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (C) congratulates Defense Secretary General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda (R) and Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong (L) after his speech about the recapture of drug baron Joaquin Guzman Loera, at the National Palace in Mexico City on January 8, 2016. A witness told a New York City courtroom this week that Nieto accepted a $100 million bribe from Guzman. Getty/Omar Torres
El Chapo Paid $100 Million Bribe to Former Mexican President Pena Nieto, Drug Lord's Close Associate Says | U.S.