Mexico billionaire’s “caravan of cocaine”

A new scandal over a politically well-connected Mexican oligarch's possible involvement in drug trafficking is erupting in Mexico.

Controversy is raging over the refusal of Mexico’s Attorney General to investigate connections between 18 Mexicans busted for carrying $9.2 million in drug money several weeks ago in Nicaragua, and Latin America’s largest TV network, Televisa, and its controversial owner, Emilio Azcarraga, said to be the power behind the throne of Mexico’s new President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Stopped in mid-August by border guards in Nicaragua, the 18 Mexicans, wearing Televisa T-shirts, were traveling in six satellite TV vans emblazoned with the Televisa logo, and told Customs officials they were journalists from—you guessed it, Televisa. They even carried press credentials from the network.

U.S. media's synchronized roll-over

News reports in the U.S. dismissed the evidence like it was too soft to bust a grape in a fruit fight.

The 18 Mexicans were called "fake journalists" in the Washington Post. FOX NEWS called them a “phony news crew.”  Reuters reported the Mexicans detained had been “posing as journalists.”

The Associated Press  used the incident to cast a gimlet eye on the post-Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

Big cash seizure puts light on Nicaragua drug roleread a  headline over the AP account. The seizure “pulled back the curtain on Nicaragua’s role as a (drug) conduit” said London's Telegraph.

It was a synchronized media roll-over worthy of the Olympics, where it might even rival Pravda's somersaults—back when Pravda was Pravda—in degree of difficulty.

Marisa Morales Investigates

Mexico's Attorney General Marisela Morales said in a television interview (with Televisa, natch) that the suspects had falsely used Televisa’s name as a cover for their criminal doings.

“Using the prestige or name of persons or companies without their knowledge,” she explained breezily, "is part of the way in which criminal organizations operate in Mexico and other countries.”

That may be. But first, her office was forced to admit to reporters that in her remarks she wasn't relying on results of an independent investigation. She was relying on assurances from Televisa.

It seemed less than sporting.

Ms Morales' dubious but stubborn defense of Televisa unleashed a wave of criticism in Mexico. It was a 'trending topic' on Twitter (at #NarcoTelevisa)  The hapless lame-duck Attorney General—who probably can't wait to clean out her office—became a new meme on the Internet: Investigate like Marisela. (#InvestigoComoMariselaMorales.) "Investigating like Marisela," wrote wags, leads to interesting discoveries:

"The 150 men who escaped from prison in Coahuila last week weren't really prisoners. They were just tourists whose holiday ended."

 “El Chapo doesn't sell drugs. He's a philanthropist, delivering medicine to poor countries like the U.S."

"Previous statements have been rendered inoperative"

For its part, Televisa issued conflicting press releases. Each new release rendered   inoperative the network’s previous statements.  Televisa’s director of public relations initially told reporters the vans were Televisa's…but they'd been stolen.

No one had filed a stolen vehicle report, he was told. So he changed his story: Televisa never owned the vehicles. Later still, it became: the satellite vans were registered using fake documents.

What happened next was extraordinary. Some people committed journalism.

Weekly magazine Proceso, MVS TV and an intrepid female reporter named Carmen Aristegui, who apparently knows no fear, reported  the satellite vans in Nicaragua were registered in Mexico City in the name of  Televisa SA de CV by an agent known to have been authorized to sign documents for the company between 2009-2011.

In a Sunday featrue, "Nicaragua File: Logo of Power," Proceso explained that displaying the logo of the largest media company in Latin America allowed the drug trafficking Mexicans to operate with impunity, criss-crossing Central America without being checked.

Even Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega weighed in.“Using the Televisa vans gave the 18 Mexicans impunity,” he said, “because it is not easy to detain supposed journalists to investigate them."

The big unanswered question: For whom were the 18 Mexicans really working? What's the name of the guy that's out  $9.2 million?

American drug traffickers with 'get out of jail free' cards

Mexico is not the only country where well-connected drug traffickers ply their trade with impunity.  Here's a brief condensation from more than two dozen stories posted in The Cocaine-One Files.:

A DC-9 left St Petersburg Florida and was busted at 6 PM Central Time on the evening of April 10 with 5.5 tons of cocaine.

 When it was busted,FAA registration records clearly show, the plane’s owner was Frederic Geffon of St Petersburg.

Geffon didn't appear to lose any sleep over owning a plane seized with a boxcar-full of cocaine.  Instead, he cooly claimed that he'd sold the plane. But he didn't inform the FAA of the sale until after it was seized.

Oddly enough, this  bothered no one in a position to assist putting Geffon behind bars.

Geffon Takes a Mulligan. Geffon gets a 'do-over.'

Geffon took a 'Mulligan.' He got a 'do-over.'  We should all be so lucky.

FAA spokesman Roland Herwig told Howard Altman of the Tampa Tribune that the FAA received a copy of a letter from Royal Sons dated April 7, asking that the plane be exported to Venezuela.

When Roland Herwig from the FAA cited the date typed on the letter, rather than the date on which the FAA received it, he offered anyone with eyes to see a huge clue about what was going on:

The fix was in.

It's not as if Geffon’s letter dated April 7 was lost in the mail for four days before showing up at the FAA. It was faxed in. The FAA’s stamp indicated they received it on April 11.

That's almost a full day after his plane was busted. And it didn't matter.

The fax numbers at the bottom of the letter faxed to Geffon and Corrales, the buyer, who turned out to be working for the Sinaloa Cartel (Geffon said he was an "airplane broker) show the same thing.

Fred Geffon told the FAA he'd sold the plane almost 24 hours after it was seized. And it didn't matter.

The FAA’s date stamp shows the FAA actually received the change of ownership documents even later, on April 13, almost three days after the bust.

The documents submitted by Geffon were back-dated. That's probably a federal crime.

And that didn't matter, either.

In a better world, Frederic Geffon would have to pay for owning a plane caught carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine. But then, in a better world, drugs would be legal.

And the multi-billion dollar slush funds currently in the hands of power brokers around the world would slowly be extricated from their pudgy little fingers.

Shakespeare said it best: "Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."

Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.

4 Responses

  1. September 27, 2012

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  2. October 29, 2012

    […] Geffon claimed he'd sold the plane. But he didn't inform the FAA of the sale until after it was seized. However, this didn't bother anyone in a position to put Geffon behind bars. […]

  3. October 30, 2012

    […] Geffon claimed he’d sold the plane. But he didn’t inform the FAA of the sale until after it was seized. However, this didn’t bother anyone in a position to put Geffon behind bars. […]