Witness says Mexican druglord ‘El Chapo’ paid massive bribes to top cop

Mexico's top drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted as he arrives at Long Island MacArthur airport in New York, US, January 19, 2017, after his extradition from Mexico.(Reuters File Photo)
Updated 27 November 2018

Witness says Mexican druglord ‘El Chapo’ paid massive bribes to top cop

  • Witness Miguel Angel Martinez said the Sinaloa cartel paid $10 million in drug money bribes at least twice to Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni
  • Martinez worked for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in the late 1980s and early 1990s

NEW YORK: Back when business was starting to boom, notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman took delight in seeing massive cocaine shipments arriving by air from Colombia, occasions he code-named “parties” that made him so rich he could pay multimillion dollar bribes to a powerful police commander, a government witness at Guzman’s US trial testified Monday.
Miguel Angel Martinez told the jury that while working for Guzman in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the largest shipment ever seen at that time was carried by a fleet of 10 planes, each hauling hundreds of kilos, that landed one day on a hidden airstrip.
At the time, Guzman “was very happy,” Martinez said. He added Guzman told him, “Compadre, now it’s a great party.”
Martinez, testifying in the trial’s third week, also told the jury that the Sinaloa cartel paid $10 million in drug money bribes at least twice to Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, a top law enforcement official in Mexico City. In exchange, Calderoni tipped off the cartel about investigations and offered other protections that helped keep Guzman from getting caught.
Calderoni was known in that era for helping solve the slaying of a Drug Enforcement agent by drug dealers in Mexico in 1985. He also was accused of corruption and torture before slipping out of the country to live in McAllen, Texas, where he was gunned down in a suspected hit in 2003.
Guzman was extradited to the United States last year to face drug-trafficking charges accusing him of running a cartel known for greed and violence. His lawyers say he’s being framed by cooperators like Martinez, whose witness protection status remains unclear.
To show that Martinez actually knew Guzman, prosecutors entered into evidence a photo they said shows him sitting next to Guzman at a social gathering sometime in the early 1990s. The prosecutors had the face of Martinez obscured because they say having images of him go public could put his life in danger.
Last week, another former cartel member who’s pleaded guilty and is behind bars testified that a high-level security chief in Mexico and a second law enforcement official who once worked under the country’s new president-elect took millions of dollars in bribes in the mid-2000s.
Martinez testified that, after washing out as a pilot for Guzman by nearly crashing a plane with his boss aboard, he was made a cartel administrator helping oversee the Colombian shipments and bribery. He said that he and Guzman became so close that Guzman became the godfather of his son.
He described how Guzman was born into poverty in a part of the Sinaloa countryside known for growing marijuana and poppies for heroin. He testified that the future kingpin told him he went into the drug trade because “he didn’t have anything to eat.”

Taliban rule out cease-fire until it is agreed in talks

Updated 26 min 38 sec ago

Taliban rule out cease-fire until it is agreed in talks

  • President Ghani’s order to release 400 hardcore Taliban prisoners opens way for negotiations

KABUL: The Taliban have rejected calls for a truce before the long-awaited talks with the government get underway. They said that the possibility of a cease-fire could be debated only during the talks.

“When our prisoners are released, we will be ready for the talks,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“A cease-fire or reduction of violence can be among the items in the agenda of the talks,” he said.

This follows President Ashraf Ghani signing a decree for the release of 400 hardcore Taliban prisoners on Monday — who Kabul said were responsible for some of the worst attacks in the country in recent years — thereby removing the last obstacle to the start of the negotiations set by the Taliban.

However, Kabul has yet to announce the date of their release.

Feraidoon Khawzoon, a spokesman for the government-appointed peace council, said that Doha, Qatar, would be the likely venue.

“Deliberations are continuing, and no decision has been made on a firm date yet,” he said.

Ghani pledged to release the prisoners after the Loya Jirga, or traditional assembly, voiced support for their freedom.

After three days of deliberations the Jirga, which comprises 3,400 delegates, said that its decision was for the sake of “the cessation of bloodshed” and to remove “the obstacle to peace talks.”

After the Jirga’s announcement, Ghani said that “the ball was now in the Taliban’s court” and that they needed to enforce a nationwide cease-fire and begin talks to bring an end to more than 40 years of war, particularly the latest chapter in a conflict that started with the Taliban’s ousting from power in the US-led invasion in late 2001.

The exchange of prisoners between the government and the Taliban was part of a deal signed between the insurgent group and the US in Doha in February
this year.

The prisoner swap program — involving the release of 5,000 Taliban inmates in return for 1,000 security forces held by the group — was to be completed within 10 days in early March, followed by the crucial intra-Afghan talks.

February’s deal between the Taliban emissaries and US delegates, led by the US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, came after 18 months of intensive and secret talks, amid growing public frustration in the US about the Afghan war — America’s longest in history.

Ghani, whose government was sidelined from the February accord, initially voiced his opposition to freeing the Taliban inmates.

However, faced with increasing pressure from the US, Kabul began releasing 4,600 prisoners in a phased manner.

The intra-Afghan talks are also crucial for US President Donald Trump, who is standing for reelection in November and is keen to use the pull-out of forces and the start of negotiations as examples of his successful foreign policy. However, experts say the next stage will not be easy.

Analyst and former journalist Taj Mohammad told Arab News: “The talks will be a long, complicated process, with lots of ups and downs. It took 18 months for the Taliban and US to agree on two points; the withdrawal of all US troops and the Taliban pledging to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda. Now, imagine, how long it will take for the completion of a very complicated process of talks between Afghans who will debate women’s rights, minorities rights, election, Islamic values, … the form of government and so on.”

For some ordinary Afghans on the streets, however, the planned talks have revived hopes for peace and security and “are more needed in Afghanistan than in any other country.”

“I am more optimistic now than in the past. All sides have realized they cannot win by force and may have decided to rise to the occasion and come together,” Fateh Shah, a 45-year-old civil servant from Kabul, said.

Others spoke of their dreams to “go back home.”

“I have been away from my village for 19 years, and as soon as peace comes, we will pack up and go there,” said Rasool Dad, a 50-year-old porter who lives as a war-displaced person in Kabul, talking of his desire to return to his birthplace in southern Helmand province.

However, 30-year-old banker Sharif Amiri wasn’t very optimistic about the future.

“Even if the talks turn out to be successful, that will not mean an end to the war or the restoration of security. There are spoilers in the region, at home and at an international level who will try to sabotage peace here,” he said, hinting at rivalries among countries in the region, including major powers such as Russia, China and the US, who have used Afghanistan as a direct and indirect battleground for years.