Alex Cifuentes tesifies via interpreter ( click on an image to see larger)
El Chapo’s former secretary testified Wednesday about bribe payments made to a DEA agent on behalf of members of a Colombian cartel group.
During his fourth morning on the stand, Alex Cifuentes, 50, told the court under cross-examination that his brother Francisco Ivan (Pacho) Cifuentes Villa authorized a payment to an agent with the DEA. The payout was given to the U.S. law enforcement officer inside a “cell phone box” at a restaurant located near an airport in Colombia, Cifuentes testified.
El Chapo defense table
“There were some dollars in there,” Cifuentes said of the package, adding that he was unsure of whether the money was intended as a gift or a bribe.
The agent was not named during the testimony, nor the date or exact location of where the alleged bribe took place.Pacho Cifuentes led the notorious Cifuentes-Villa drug trafficking cartel until his assassination in 2007. Jurors heard earlier in the trial about his early beginnings in the trade working as a pilot for Pablo Escobar. The revelation came out during questioning about statements the witness gave during debriefings following his extradition to the U.S. in 2016.
Emma Coronel Aispuro seated in court
Cifuentes also spoke of bribe payments paid to a Colombian general identified as Naranjo — made by members of his drug-trafficking family and not El Chapo — and members of the Colombian air force.
On Tuesday, the turncoat prompted international headlines after testifying about a $100-million bribe payment El Chapo, whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, allegedly made to the former president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, in October 2012.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan questioned the validity of the witness’s bombshell claims and suggested prosecutors may not have brought them up under direct examination as they simply don’t believe them.
“Or maybe they’re desperately trying to protect the Mexican government,” defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman responded.