Raul Salinas Denies Swiss Charges
Oct. 21, 1998
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mexico wants Switzerland to share information on the seizure of $114 million from bank accounts of the brother of a former Mexican president. The Swiss charge the funds were laundered drug profits.
In a statement late Tuesday, the federal attorney general's office also insisted that any money seized should be shared with Mexico.
The Swiss seizure on Tuesday culminated a near three-year investigation into the millions amassed by Raul Salinas de Gortari, whose brother, Carlos, served as Mexico's president from 1988 to 1994.
``The frozen funds in Swiss bank accounts _ of which Raul Salinas is a co-owner _ constitute in part the criminal proceeds of protection payoffs,'' Swiss prosecutors said.
Mexico's attorney general's office has not yet officially linked Raul Salinas' millions to drug trafficking. But it said Tuesday the funds were far beyond the income he could have received from reported legal activities.
It said prosecutors have asked American officials to let them question witnesses _ mainly prisoners in U.S. jails _ whose testimony to Swiss investigators played a key role in the Swiss allegations. It did not say how U.S. officials had responded.
The agency also noted that the Swiss had offered to share evidence collected in their probe.
Raul Salinas was acquitted of money laundering charges in Mexico. But he remains in prison, charged with illegally enriching himself during his brother's administration and with masterminding the 1994 murder of a leading politician.
Raul Salinas' lawyer Eduardo Luengo Creel said Tuesday he will appeal the seizure of the money.
In a letter written from his prison cell in central Mexico, Raul Salinas accused Swiss prosecutors of using questionable witnesses and exaggerating the size of his accounts.
He repeated his denial of taking payoffs to ease drug shipments.
``I want to make clear my indignation at this contempt for Mexican institutions and the innumerable racist allusions'' made by a key Swiss investigator, Raul Salinas wrote, according to excerpts from the letter published Tuesday in Mexico City newspapers.
The attorney general's office also rejected ``erroneous interpretations about the situation in Mexico'' in the Swiss report, apparently claiming it exaggerated the extent of drug influence.
``The accusation made against a person, as influential as he may be, cannot be made an accusation against other individuals, social groups or institutions,'' it said.
Raul Salinas said the money in the Swiss accounts was an investment fund pooled by several wealthy friends. The attorney general's office repeated its call for those alleged investors to come forward.
Most of the money ordered confiscated _ $89.9 million _ is in Swiss bank accounts. The prosecutors also are asking Britain to seize $24.5 million.
Raul Salinas admitted he had deposited part of the money under false names ``in a very irresponsible way'' so that his brother would not notice the transactions, Luengo said.
The Swiss prosecutors said the findings of their investigation ``inevitably suggest money laundering'' of drug profits.
They said Raul Salinas used his influence to protect large-scale drug shipments through Mexico from Colombia to the United States.
``With all his contacts and his power, he could guarantee protection for those loads,'' said Valentin Roschacher, who led the investigation.
Raul Salinas dismissed that charge as ``an absurd novel of narco-fiction'' and attacked the credibility of the witnesses cited in the Swiss report, claiming they were U.S. prison inmates who ``received benefits'' in exchange for their testimony.
The Swiss said ``a great many witnesses'' testified that he had received hundreds of millions of dollars in payoffs from Colombian and Mexican drug cartels between 1988 and 1994, when his brother Carlos was president. The witnesses were not identified.
The Swiss prosecutors wouldn't say whether their investigations had shown Carlos Salinas to be involved with drug money. The former Mexican president, who moved to Ireland shortly after leaving office, has not been charged with any crime.