The exclusive "Cocaine One" series of investigative reports by this reporter appearing on this website for the past two years made the news, finally… not in the U.S., but in Mexico City, where it was cited by a principal in the drug trafficking scandal in newspaper interviews to support his allegation of selective prosecution against the DEA.
It is one of several recent new developments in the scandal, which began two years ago with the capture in the Yucatan by the Mexican military of two American-registered airplanes.
Both planes had taken off from St. Petersburg FL., flown to Colombia and Venezuela, and then were busted when they stopped in the Yucatan to refuel on the way back to Florida.
They were caught carrying an astonishing cumulative total of ten tons of cocaine, as well as a still-undisclosed amount of heroin.
Total immunity as a perk of employment
Carlos Gutiérrez de Velasco is the paterfamilias of the influential Veracruz-based family which owned the Casa de Cambio Puebla currency exchange, accused of laundering enough drug money through U.S. banks to buy as many as 100 American planes for use in drug-running.
In a recent interview with Mexico City’s Reforma newspaper, Gutierrez, who is also the father of a fugitive from prosecution in the case, claimed his family is the victim of selective prosecution, and alleged a cover-up of the involvement of influential Americans.
He called on Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon to become personally involved in forcing the DEA to explain why only Mexicans are being tracked down and jailed.
The Americans who sold planes to the Sinaloa Cartel buyers enjoy official immunity from prosecution, Gutierrez suggested, while people like his fugitive son, José Antonio Gutiérrez, were being tracked down and hung out to dry.
"Mexican authorities acted based only on information from the United States,” Gutierrez told Reforma, pointing to evidence unearthed by this reporter’s investigation, which revealed the high-level Republican connections of the people selling planes to the Sinaloa Cartel.
Ricardo Ravelo, a reporter for Mexico City' Proceso, has already picked up our evidence of the interlocking ownership of the two American drug-running airplanes ( a DC9 and a Gulfstream business jet) busted in the Yucatan.
The owners of both planes were also in business together in a massive ($300 million) financial fraud, we have previously reported, along with CIA fixer and Saudi arms merchant Adnan Khashoggi.
"'Facts that will never see the light of day' for $500, Alex."
Gutierrez told Reforma, “The U.S. is offering a deal if my son turns himself in. But if he does, the complicity of the aircraft owners in the U.S. will never come up at trial. We need to corroborate and include information uncovered by journalist Daniel Hopsicker and get to the truth.”
Mexicans are being punished for crimes for which their American counterparts are getting a pass, said Gutiérrez, pointing to the dossier which requested the extradition of his family, in which the DEA admits the Americans who sold the planes knew their clients were criminals and drug traffickers. But the sellers are not being pursued, Gutierrez told Reforma, and he wants to know: what's up with that?
Given this background, his relative does not intend to surrender in Mexico seek relief, he stated.
How to walk on a 10-ton coke beef
The scandal began with the bust of the two American planes; but it took off when the Mexican Attorney General’s Office traced the drug money used to purchase the planes to Casa de Cambio Puebla.
That information exposed a major money laundering conduit between Mexican drug traffickers and American banks, notably Wachovia and the International Bank of Commerce in San Antonio Texas, which, the Mexican Attorney General’s office announced, had been used over the last several years to buy as many as 100 aircraft in the U.S. from American owners.
Our investigation, meanwhile, uncovered a paper trail of documents, including FAA registration records, which illuminated previously-hidden connections between Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, led by Shorty Guzman, and their (officially non-existent) American partners.
The dual discoveries were a major breakthrough in unmasking the identities of people who the DEA strenuously insists don’t even exist:
The American Drug Lords.
The case, at the very least, is a major political embarrassment in the U.S.’s so-called war-on-drugs. Both of the drug-running American planes—a DC9 airliner (N900SA) and a Gulfstream II business jet (N987SA)—had previously been flown or been connected to U.S. Government Agencies: the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security.
"The Shuffleboard Mob?"
There is more than a whiff of official corruption on both sides of the border, swirling around the story. In the U.S., it is a situation with obvious and serious national security implications.
A U.S. Government connection helps explain the curious fact that both planes were operating out of the sleepy retirement community of St. Petersburg on Florida’s Gulf Coast, a city perhaps previously known primarily as the home of the International Shuffleboard Hall of Fame, or the birthplace of the canary-yellow leisure suit; and confirmation would halt idle speculation about the existence of some previously-unknown crime family in St. Petersburg, FL.
There is no Shuffleboard Mob.
What there is, however, is an airport, Clearwater St-Petersburg International, which has been a federal installation since it was used to train General Claire Chennault’s famous “Flying Tigers” during World War II.
The Flying Tigers, alert readers will recall, is an outfit around which swirled rumors of international narcotics trafficking in support of the Nationalist Chinese.
DEA: A Homeland Security internal investigation
In the U.S., the guilty involvement of individuals in the Department of Homeland Security was confirmed to us earlier this year by a high–level DEA official in Miami.
And the Mexican currency exchange operated out of Mexico’s largest airports, requiring a high level of official sanction, obtained in Mexico only through having cronies in high places.
The aforementioned Carlos Gutierrez, for example, has been widely reported in the Mexican press to have been a major behind-the-scenes force during recent Mexican President Vicente Fox’s rise to power.
Amigos de Fox…and Bush?
Claims of selective prosecution notwithstanding, for the past five years the Casa de Cambio Puebla currency exchange was itself getting something of a pass.
Far from being the surprise discovery portrayed by the DEA and the Mexican Attorney General’s office, the Casa de Cambio Puebla money laundering conduit recently shut down has been well known to law enforcement for years.
Case de Cambio Puebla played a central role in the “Friends of Fox” Mexican campaign finance scandal which dogged Vicente Fox after his 2000 election.
The exchange was first fingered by investigators, and in the Mexican press, more than six years ago for laundering overseas money into the 2000 presidential campaign of soon-to-be President of Mexico Vicente Fox, which is illegal under Mexican law.
Worse: The money was coming from DEHYDRATION TECHNOLOGIES INC., a dummy front company located in Alexandria, Virginia… right next door to the CIA.
Worse yet: For the next six years, law enforcement in both the U.S. and Mexico did nothing about it.
And they both use Tony Canales…
The story is reminiscent of the blatant fraud engaged in by Jack Abramoff in the U.S., whose generically named Capital Foundation laundered money with little pretense of philanthropy.
During the run-up to the Mexican Presidential election in 2000, an aide to Vicente Fox named Miguel Hakim incorporated, in Puebla, the generically-named “Institute of International Finance.”
The company existed to receive money (a half-million dollars) from an overseas source: Dehydration Technologies in Alexandria Virginia.
In a sophisticated tri-cornered scheme, the money was then washed through the Casa de Cambio Puebla, before ending up in the pocket of PAN Presidential candidate Vicente Fox.
Mexico's Miguel Hakim and Texas' Tony Sanchez, the owner of one of the banks named in the scheme, IBC of San Antonio, both use one of the best drug lawyers around, a man named Tony Canales.
Enter a Polish Count working for the World Bank
As if the cast were not already colorful enough, Dehydration Technologies was run by Paul Popiel, an apparent Polish Count who escaped Poland when the Russians took over after World War II, and who spent 20 years working at the World Bank.
When reporters from Mexico City newspaper "La Reforma" visited Dehydration Technologies ‘headquarters’ in Belgium, they found that the company’s listed address was a private home, whose long-time residents had no idea what they were talking about, and had never heard of the company.
While there, they picked up a copy of the company’s financial statement, required to be filed by all companies "headquartered" in Belgium.
What immediately attracted their attention was that, for a firm with no visible product, sales, or even an office: Dehydration Technologies was moving a lot of money around.
Everybody's got to be good at something.
"It smelled really bad. We mean, like…really bad."
“Between 1994 and 1997 Dehydration Technologies Belgium SA received loans from an unidentified third party totaling $15 million, while recording losses of $2.2 million, on sales of… $330,000.
Three financial experts contacted by Reforma all agreed.
“It smelled really bad,” they stated.
The financial consultants then asked the magazine not to reveal their identities. Reporters die unnatural deaths with some regularity in Mexico…
Apparently financial analysts are not immune either.
"The Homeland Security Rackets"
The Homeland Security Rackets Scandal offers perhaps the best opportunity to catch a glimpse of the shadowy forces behind the illicit drug trade in America since the cocaine trafficking made visible by the Iran Contra Scandal some twenty years ago.
Not since the downing of a C-130 military cargo plane over Nicaragua in 1986 with Eugene Hasenfus onboard—kicking off the Iran Contra Scandal while revealing massive cocaine trafficking involving Reagan Administration stalwart Oliver North—has an aviation incident been remotely as important or as fraught with significance.
And not since the massive cocaine smuggling through Mena, Arkansas has the CIA’s hand been so flagrantly caught in the cookie jar.