Feds Allege Mexican Billionaire Has Long History Of Criminal Activity
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Aired 8/21/14 on KPBS News.
Federal prosecutors say a Mexican billionaire at the center of a campaign finance scandal in San Diego has a long history of criminal activity.
Court papers filed this week reveal federal authorities have investigated Jose Susumo Azano Matsura for years. The documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office say Azano popped up in drug smuggling and money laundering investigations as early as the late 1990s.
U.S. Attorney's Office Response To Discovery Motion
Special Feature Dirty Money
All of the background information on campaign contributions illegally funneled from a wealthy Mexican businessman to local candidates.
For example, federal prosecutors say a 1997 Homeland Security Investigations report "noted that a confidential informant had contended Azano was responsible for smuggling multi-kilogram loads of cocaine into the United States."
The new information is included in a response to Azano’s motion for discovery that was filed late last month. In it, Azano claimed the charges of illegally funding local politicians' campaigns are unfounded and said he was manipulated into the scheme.
Speaking generally, former federal prosecutor Jason Forge said prosecutors will typically respond with additional information when a defendant attacks the process.
"The government, in demonstrating there’s nothing wrong with the process, will often provide more detail about the background of a case,” Forge said.
This not only enlightens the public about other information the government had on the defendant, he said, but will also "demonstrate that the genesis of the specific case is nothing that should raise an eyebrow.”
A federal judge is expected to hear arguments Monday afternoon regarding Azano's motion for discovery.
Under federal law, foreign nationals are barred from contributing to U.S. political campaigns.
Azano has pleaded not guilty to the charges of funneling up to $600,000 to the 2012 mayoral campaigns of Bob Filner and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Juan Vargas’s congressional bid.
Azano and alleged co-conspirators Ravneet Singh, a campaign services professional, and lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday for additional charges filed earlier this month.
KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma contributed to this story.
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