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  • Alex Cifuentes (2nd L), a close associate of the accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin

    Alex Cifuentes (2nd L), a close associate of the accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, (R-front) is seen testifying in this courtroom sketch in Brooklyn federal court in New York, U.S., January 15, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 January 2019

Peña Nieto denied taking bribes from Guzman when the allegation first surfaced in November.

Accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman once paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, a former associate testified on Tuesday that he previously told U.S. authorities.

Alex Cifuentes, who has described himself as Guzman’s onetime “right-hand man,” discussed the alleged bribe under cross-examination by one of Guzman’s lawyers in Brooklyn federal court. Asked if he told authorities in 2016 that Guzman arranged the bribe, he answered, “That’s right.”

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Peña Nieto denied taking bribes from Guzman when the allegation first surfaced in November.

Peña Nieto was president of Mexico from December 2012 until November 2018. He previously served as governor of the state that includes Mexico City.

Guzman, 61, has been on trial since November. He was extradited to the United States in 2017 to face charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the country as leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Colombian-born Cifuentes is one of about a dozen witnesses who have so far testified against Guzman after striking deals with U.S. prosecutors, in a trial that has provided a window into the secretive world of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organization.

Other witnesses at the trial have also made accusations of high-level corruption.

Jesus Zambada, another cartel member, testified in November he paid a multimillion-dollar bribe to an aide of current Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in 2005. The aide, Genaro Garcia Luna, denied the accusations to Reuters at the time, calling them “defamation.”

Cifuentes earlier on Tuesday had also testified that Guzman asked an associate to pay a $10 million bribe to a general. The witness said the bribe was never paid and Guzman subsequently ordered the associate killed, though the hit was never carried out.

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