A top drug trafficker for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán testified that the Mexican drug lord paid a $100 million bribe in 2012 to Mexico’s then-President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, reports the Wall Street Journal. Alex Cifuentes Villa, a cooperating witness in the Guzmán trial, said Peña Nieto contacted Guzmán before he took office, telling the leader of the Sinaloa cartel he no longer needed to hide. “And what the president wanted was money?” Jeffrey Lichtman, Guzmán’s attorney, asked Cifuentes in a cross examination on Tuesday. “To work with him, yes,” Cifuentes said through a translator. “Mr. Guzmán pays money and the president allows Mr. Guzmán to keep working?” Lichtman asked. “I’d imagine so,” Cifuentes said. Peña Nieto’s former spokesman called Cifuentes’s allegations “false, defamatory and absurd.”
Cifuentes said Peña Nieto requested $250 million from Guzmán and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, Guzmán’s co-defendant in the federal case. Guzmán countered with an offer of $100 million. Lichtman has painted Zambada, who is still at large, as the real leader of the Sinaloa cartel. On trial in Brooklyn, N.Y., Guzmán has pleaded not guilty to a 17-count indictment that charges him with building the Sinaloa cartel into a multibillion-dollar international narcotics empire through murder and violence.