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Cardinal Sandoval in Jail: Drug Laundering

The Cardinal Archbishop of Guadalajara, Juan Sandoval Iiguez, is making a habit of claiming, prematurely, that he has been cleared or will be cleared of money laundering.

by Mexico & Nafta ReportHis most recent claim came on 12 October: the Procuradura General de la Repblica (PGR), which is investigating the allegations, said its enquiries were continuing. The allegations, that the cardinal and the church are involved in money laundering, were made by a political heavyweight, Jorge Carpizo, a former attorney-general and interior minister. The PGR said that only when it had finished its enquiries would it make a recommendation about whether criminal charges should be laid against the cardinal. The investigation into Sandovals activities was triggered by a 25-page document produced by Carpizo. In it the former cabinet minister and ambassador to France accuses not only Sandoval of being involved in money laundering for drug gangs, but also the Catholic Church around the world of getting involved in the money laundering business. Press reports in Mexico hint that the document draws on reports from Mexican and other intelligence services. Sandovals lawyers say that the Carpizo document is a tissue of lies. The only sources cited are odd: a laundry woman in a seminary and an elderly ex-bishop. The Carpizo document claims that the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar lived in the state of Sinaloa in 1992 and 1993 and bribed churchmen. The document also alleges that Sandoval and his murdered predecessor, Juan Jess Posadas Ocampo, were in the pay of two drug gangs: the Guadalajara-Ciudad Jurez gang and the Tijuana-Morelos group. Carpizo alleges that Sandovals connections with drug gangs go back to his time as deputy rector of the Guadalajara seminary in 1971. He claims that Sandoval was none too fussy about where he raised money, and that money flowed in from drug traffickers until 1988, when Sandoval moved to become suffragan bishop of Ciudad Jurez. Carpizo also alleges that the cardinals family (he has 11 brothers) is involved in the drug business. Carpizo alleges that Sandoval and other bishops deliberately sought out connections with the rich. Sometimes these people had close connections with the drug trade: in return for providing sacraments to them and their families, the rich made contributions to the church. What is clear is that Sandoval has developed close connections to people who matter. He was, for example, a guest at the birthday lunch for President Foxs mother. This meeting with Vicente Fox gave Sandoval the chance to claim that the president had promised that the investigation would be over in two weeks. That was at the end of September. Admittedly, Sandoval recanted and apologised for that statement. The cardinals claim had drawn a furious denial from the presidency, which did not want the head of state to be seen to be meddling in a judicial matter. The presidency said that the two men had agreed that the investigation into the cardinal was legally justified. Previously, the cardinal had claimed that the investigation was an insult to him and the Roman Catholic church, and that the president had promised to investigate the people who had made the allegation. The presidency said that the president had made no such commitment. The cardinal also admitted in his statement that he did not consider himself above the law. Previously he had appeared to.Avenues What has become clear is the leads the PGR is following. The Mexican newspapers have published letters from the cardinal and the secretary-general of the episcopate in support of the gambling czar Jos Mara Guardia Lpez. The letters supported Guardias application to be allowed to carry a gun and, secondly, expand his business. The Roman Catholic church retorted that the letters had been written in a personal capacity and that the church had not been paid off for its backing. The letters were written to the ministry of defence and the Polica Federal Preventiva. Guardia himself, who was born in The Philippines but is a naturalised Mexican, denied that he has anything to do with money laundering for drug cartels. He does, however, run the horseracing track and the greyhound track at Ciudad Jurez. He also runs gambling houses in the north, notably in Monterrey. He said that he got the racetrack concession when Fernando Gutirrez Barrios was interior minister, 12 years ago. Guardia said that the church had never helped him, though he considered himself to be a pious Catholic. Guardia has been running gambling parlours in Monterrey since 1995. Only six weeks ago he was granted an alcohol licence. He also admitted that the Ciudad Jurez horseracing track had been closed, after a government inspection. He said that he expected to reopen it on 15 November with an entirely new system for betting. It has also emerged that in 1997 the two Ciudad Jurez concessions had racked up debts to the federal government of 8m pesos (US$1m). Guardia then wrote to the then-interior minister, Emilio Chuayffet, who is now a federal deputy for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, asking to reschedule this debt. Apparently, he was allowed to pay the debt over six years, without having to pay any interest. According to a document, published in the Mexico City daily Reforma, Guardias company, Cesta Punta Deportiva, had not paid the concession fees for the period from November 1995 to March 1997.Posadas Sandoval and some of his rightwing supporters have squared up to Carpizo before. They accuse him of deliberately distracting the investigation into the murder of cardinal Posadas in 1993. The official line is that Posadas was caught up in a gun battle between two drug gangs – Sinaloa and Tijuana – at Guadalajara airport. Sandoval and his supporters claim that Posadas was killed because of what he knew about the links between the Salinas government (then in power) and the drug business. What undermines Sandovals case is that the then-Papal Nuncio subsequently met the leaders of the Tijuana cartel, the Arellano Flix brothers.

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