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.”


South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

Updated 40 min 40 sec ago

South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

  • South Korea will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct

SEOUL: South Korea’s military said on Tuesday it plans to expand the deployment of an anti-piracy unit now operating off the coast of Africa to the area around the Strait of Hormuz, after the United States pressed for help in guarding oil tankers.
Attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran last year prompted US officials to call for allies to join a planned maritime security mission.
While South Korea, a key US ally, will deploy its forces to the area, including the Gulf, it will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct, the defense ministry said.
“The South Korean government decided to temporarily expand the deployment of the Cheonghae military unit,” a ministry official told reporters, adding that the step would ensure the safety of citizens and free navigation of South Korean vessels.
The decision to divert the navy unit already operating southwest of Arabia is a political compromise that will not require fresh authorization by parliament ahead of an election in April.
The Cheonghae unit will continue with its mission while it cooperates with the coalition, the ministry said, adding that the United States had been briefed on the decision, which was also explained to the Iranians separately.
The United States welcomes and appreciates South Korea’s decision to expand the mission of its Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz, William Coleman, spokesman for the US Embassy in Seoul, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“This decision is a demonstration of the strength of the US-ROK alliance and our commitment to cooperate on global security concerns.”
The Iranian embassy in Seoul had no comment on the matter.
The Strait of Hormuz is a busy passageway into the Gulf, with vessels sailing through it approximately 900 times a year for South Korea, which gets more than 70% of its oil from the Middle East, the defense ministry says.
Sending troops to the area has been a politically sensitive issue in South Korea ahead of the election.
A survey by pollster Realmeter last week showed 48.4% of South Koreans were opposed to dispatching soldiers to the Strait, while 40.3% supported the idea.
Tuesday’s move was broadly supported by lawmakers although some said it could risk Iran ties and the safety of South Koreans in the region. A number of progressive activist groups issued a statement criticizing the decision and said they will stage a protest in front of the president’s office on Wednesday.
The Cheonghae unit has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, working to tackle piracy in partnership with African countries as well as the United States and the European Union.
The 302-strong unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats, South Korea’s 2018 defense white paper showed.
Among its operations were the rescue of a South Korean ship and its crew in 2011, shooting eight suspected pirates and capturing five others in the incident.
The South Korean troops have also evacuated South Korean citizens from Libya and Yemen, and as of November 2018 had escorted around 18,750 South Korean and international vessels.
South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer and one of Iran’s major oil customers, stopped importing Iranian crude from May after waivers of US sanctions ended at the start of that month.