Thursday 20 December 2012

Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez’s crash landing

Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez and his wife Bertha Cruz de la Cruz attended last Friday’s hearing (December 14) regarding an alleged plot in 2011 to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s third son, into Mexico. Unless the judge requires further confirmation, the evidence phase of the trial is now over, with a decision expected in the New Year.

Mr. Esquino Núñez, a convicted criminal, has been considered the prosecution’s lead witness. However, two sources have informed La politica that during the hearing Esquino Núñez denied that he was a witness, and instead corrected the judge, stating that in fact he was the person who had brought the initial allegations to Mexican authorities.

                                                                                                                          (Photo enhanced from Univision News)

Reforma and other news outlets have reported in the past that a Mexican businessman in the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on three sides, had informed State officials back in August 2011 of the plot. At that time this un-named businessman also gave them a copy of Saadi Gaddafi’s passport, plus information on three others – allegedly the younger Gaddafi’s wife and two children. Toluca, the main city in the State of Mexico, situated 45 minutes west of Mexico City, is where Esquino Núñez conducts much of his flight operations.

During last Friday’s testimony Esquino Núñez confirmed that he had contacted high ranking officials in the State of Mexico, as he did not know how to contact the Mexican Attorney General's office (PGR),  and that they had told him to hold off until he had more proof. None of these officials have been named – we therefore have no way of confirming if this testimony is true.

Operation Guest

Mexican authorities opened their investigation into the alleged Gaddafi plot – “Operation Guest” (Operación Huésped) – on September 6th, 2011, a full two months before email tips were received, allegedly from the hacktivist group Anonymous. These leaked emails are crucial to the prosecution’s case, yet the government appears to have made no effort to track IP addresses to determine their source(s).

Soon after Operation Guest was initiated, on September 12 and September 14, 2011, Angelo Capra, an RCMP officer with Ontario’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), showed up and questioned the alleged Canadian “ringleader” of this plan, Cynthia Vanier, in Mount Forest, Ontario. They wanted to question her about Gaddafi’s September 11 escape to Niger. A few days earlier Gary Peters, the security lead on Vanier’s fact-finding trip to Libya in July, 2011, had returned to Canada claiming to have helped transport Saadi to Niger’s border.

Despite Saadi being locked-down in Niger, Esquino Núñez has claimed to have a recording from late September 2011 in which Greg Gillispie and Gabriela (Gabby) de Cueto, who brokered the aircraft rental from him for the Libya trip, allegedly discuss a plan. Apparently, this conversation occurred during a drive from Toluca’s airport to Mexico City.

Esquino Núñez has threatened to produce this recording in the past. It is hard to see how that would have been possible, as he now claims that his only copy had been given to an official in the Mexican government. Given Esquino Núñez’s past record of shady deals, it is simply not credible that he would have given up his only recording without having made a copy, but that’s what he now says. In fact, Esquino Núñez testified that he gave this recording to an official who later died in a plane crash in 2011, meaning that neither he nor the PGR can produce this crucial “evidence”.

La politica has been unable to confirm who that official might be, but it is possible it was either José Francisco Blake Mora or a member of his entourage.  Blake Mora was president Felipe Calderón’s Secretary of the Interior: he died along with seven others in a helicopter crash on November 11, 2011.

November 11 was also the day in which Gabriela (Gabby) de Cueto, Danish businessman Pierre Flensborg, and former Mexican police officer José Luis Kennedy Prieto, were arrested in Mexico City for being part of the alleged plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi and his family to Mexico. Cynthia Vanier was arrested the day before, also in Mexico City.

Another key piece of testimony has come from Esquino Núñez’s wife Bertha Cruz de la Cruz, who initially told the PGR on December 29, 2011, that she had received an email from Gabby De Cueto on August 25, 2011, which included an attached passport image of “Saadi M. Gadhafi”.

When presenting evidence last Friday, however, Ms. Cruz de la Cruz said that the sender was in fact Esquino Núñez, and that she has no idea where the original copy is.

These inconsistencies appear not to matter to the PGR.  Esquino Núñez has served up a big-time story of an international plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico, and has as a result become very important to the government. Consequently, his other legal problems – and there are many – appear to have been put on the back burner.

Lord of the plane crashes

In an interview with Univision after the hearing, Esquino Núñez, who also owned the 43-year-old Learjet 25 in which Mexican-American banda sensation Jenni Rivera was killed, claimed that that plane was in good mechanical condition. 

However, it seems Esquino Núñez has tried to skirt any legal liability by asserting that the aircraft was not being rented or leased by Rivera; instead, he says she was in the process of purchasing it. La politica has suggested that, if that were true, all one would need to do would be to check her financial records to see if she had put a deposit on the plane.

Esquino Núñez has since some up with a useful dodge, telling Univision that the trial agreement for possible purchase “was made through a middleman, and that this middleman was talking to Jenni Rivera's lawyer, who unfortunately was also in the plane."

There you have it. Esquino Núñez, who leases aircraft for a living, cannot produce the alleged Gaddafi plot recording because...the Mexican official died in a plane crash. And he cannot confirm Jenni Rivera was purchasing the Learjet 25 in which she and six others died, thus removing any liability on his part as the lessor, because...her lawyer died in plane crash.

Quite a character. Perhaps it is no surprise then that the question “How many times has Esquino Núñez been arrested?” has become so popular it is now trending on ChaCha.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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  1. This is amazing. I truly hope it bodes well for Vanier.

  2. PGR and Nunez corrupt to the bone.