WASHINGTON — Mexico's attorney general promised Monday to pursue his country's drug-tainted political scandals "as far as the evidence takes us" and charged that former Mexican prosecutor Mario Ruiz Massieu had amassed millions of dollars in bribes from drug traffickers or others who sought to buy political influence.
"Our commitment is to strengthen the rule of law so that no one is above the law," Mexican Atty Gen. Antonio Lozano said at a conference here.
He said his office is still preparing a full list of charges against Ruiz Massieu, the former deputy attorney general who was arrested by U.S. authorities after he fled Mexico last month and allegedly failed to declare all the currency he was carrying when stopped in a New Jersey airport.
But Lozano said Mexico's extradition request for Ruiz Massieu--who has been accused of covering up the role allegedly played by the brother of a former Mexican president in an assassination case--probably will include a charge of "misappropriation of funds."
That is because the former prosecutor's $9 million in U.S. bank accounts could only have come from illegal sources--"from selling (government) jobs, using the pressure of authority (to demand payments) . . . or from drug traffickers," Lozano said.
"We do not yet have in our hands all the elements needed to show that the money originated from drug trafficking," he added, although he suggested that is the most likely source.
Mexican officials have asserted that drug money was at the core of the corruption scandal, but Lozano's charges marked the first time that a senior official has made such a charge on the record.
Lozano added, however, that the evidence his prosecutors have gathered does not show "a systematic attempt by the Cali cartel (of Colombian cocaine producers) to infiltrate our political structures." He also said that no evidence has turned up to implicate former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari in any crimes.
Salinas staged a hunger strike and later left Mexico after police arrested his older brother, Raul Salinas de Gortari, accusing him of helping to mastermind the Sept. 28 assassination of Francisco Ruiz Massieu, the brother of Mario Ruiz Massieu.
Lozano is in Washington to meet with U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno to discuss the Ruiz Massieu case, as well as new agreements to make it easier for the two countries to extradite other criminal suspects. Lozano was a senior figure in Mexico's conservative opposition party, the National Action Party, before President Ernesto Zedillo appointed him attorney general and gave him the mandate to investigate the scandals in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.