Nation/World

Millions Legitimate, Raul Salina Insists Brother Of Mexico’s Ex-President Has Huge Swiss Accounts

The older brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari asserted Saturday that the millions of dollars in Swiss banks that investigators have linked to him are from legitimate sources, and he said he will offer proof at the appropriate time.

Raul Salinas de Gortari, who had held several posts in his brother’s government, also insisted that his family “is completely unaware of” the money and its origin.

The statements, made in a paid advertisement placed in several Mexican newspapers Saturday by Raul Salinas’ lawyer, came a day after Swiss prosecutors confirmed that they have frozen several accounts - reportedly opened by the elder Salinas - as part of a far-reaching investigation into drug-money laundering.

“I assume sole responsibility,” Salinas declared in his statement. “I will respond to any accusations, and I will vouch that the money is not from illegitimate sources.”

Raul Salinas - who has been in a maximum-security federal prison facing murder charges since February - also said his wife, Paulina Castanon, is not guilty of any wrongdoing.

Swiss police arrested Castanon and her brother, Antonio Castanon, on Nov. 15 when they tried to withdraw more than $83 million from a bank account in Geneva. Both remain in custody in Switzerland.

Prosecutors in Mexico City said the Geneva bank account was in the name of Juan Guillermo Gomez Gutierrez, whom they identified as Raul Salinas through identical photographs on drivers’ licenses, passports and birth certificates.

The prosecutors added that the 49-year-old Salinas, already charged with masterminding last year’s murder of a top ruling-party official, is now under investigation for possible embezzlement or extortion during the years he served in government. Investigators said they also are searching for other bank accounts linked to Raul Salinas elsewhere in Europe.

Carlos Salinas, who was president for six years until last November, has not been charged with any crimes. He had no public comment on the latest disclosures; he left Mexico soon after his brother’s February arrest, and his whereabouts remain unknown.

But, as the latest drama in the web of intrigue involving Mexico’s former first family continued to unfold, political analysts said the Swiss-bank connection was a lucky break for Mexican prosecutors, who have been struggling for months to prove that Raul Salinas was behind the September 1994 murder of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party’s secretary-general, Francisco Ruiz Massieu.

Prosecutors have yet to establish Salinas’ motive in the slaying of Ruiz Massieu, who was shot once in the head outside a downtown Mexico City hotel. The prosecution’s strongest witness is a woman they identified as Raul Salinas’ mistress, who testified that Salinas had told her Ruiz Massieu would be “eliminated” several weeks before the slaying.

But defense lawyers have built a strong case. For example, they presented a letter the mistress wrote to Salinas in jail several months before her testimony in which she stated that prosecutors were pressuring her to lie and implicate him in the killing.

A decision in the case is not expected until early next year.



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