“Sol Prendido” for Borderland Beat
Tomás Zerón de Lucio, former head of the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) of the then Attorney General’s Office (PGR), denied having contracted and acquired the Pegasus software -developed by the Israeli group NSO-, in 2014, for 460 million pesos, during the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto.
“There is no way, I do not know anyone from NSO, I never sat down with them. There is no proof, let them present a single piece of evidence,” declared the former Mexican federal official, during an interview with the Israeli media N12.
On the other hand, Zerón de Lucio spoke about his participation in the third arrest of Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo” – then leader of the Sinaloa Cartel – on January 8, 2016, during an operation by the Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR), in the city of Los Mochis, Sinaloa.
“I start talking to him about the arrest. If he was okay, who he was with,” said the former head of the AIC, who added that the Sinaloa drug lord told him he was with his daughters and wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, the former federal official asked him if he wanted to talk to them.
“And I told him: ‘Yes, we can make a call. ‘If you allow me, I will thank you,’ ‘You have nothing to thank me for,'” Zeron de Lucio responded, according to his version, who, regarding his self-exile, denied that he had gone to Israel because there was no extradition treaty with Mexico, but rather, according to him, he had received threats and his security service had been withdrawn. Nevertheless, the former head of the AIC confessed that he wanted to return to the country to be able to see his family and “that justice be done”.
This was the second interview given by the former Mexican federal official, since he fled at the end of 2019 to Israel, the country to which the Mexican government formally requested his extradition in January 2022.
The Attorney General’s Office (FGR) informed, on May 15, 2023, that it integrated, a new investigation folder for the contracting and acquisition of the Pegasus software – developed by the Israeli group NSO -, in 2014, by the then PGR, for an amount of 460 million pesos.
The institution for the pursuit of justice handed over to a judge the file against four former high-ranking federal officials, among them Zerón de Lucio; as well as Judith Aracely Gómez Molano, former Senior Official of the PGR; Vidal Diazleal Ochoa, former director of Information on Criminal Activities and former head of the Federal Ministerial Police (PFM); in addition to Rigoberto García Campos, former director of Information on Criminal Activities, of the National Center for Planning, Analysis and Information to Combat Crime (CENAPI).
The crimes charged against the four former federal officials are embezzlement, fraud, misuse of powers and authority, and criminal association, due to the alleged irregular purchase of Pegasus, for an amount of 460 million pesos, “for a system that this new Administration does not have; that has never been used by the Attorney General’s Office, and that was acquired illicitly”.
According to the FGR, the Prosecutor’s Office for Internal Affairs (FEAI), of said institution of justice, has requested on three occasions the holding of the initial hearing, before the Federal Criminal Justice Center of Mexico City, and was awaiting its response. This is the second investigation folder that the Attorney General’s Office of Mexico initiates for the Pegasus case, the first one was for the irregular use of such software.
“This investigation is independent from the one already prosecuted by the FGR, due to several illegal interventions that Pegasus carried out in the past administration and for which there have been indictments,” added the FGR, through a statement.
Earlier the same day, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insisted to the Government of Israel to hand over Zerón de Lucio to the Mexican authorities for his alleged responsibility in the crime of torture during the investigation of the Ayotzinapa case.
“I take this opportunity to ask the Prime Minister of Israel [Benjamin Netanyahu], to fulfill his commitment that he be extradited, Mr. Tomás Zerón, who has been proven that he participated in the fabrication of the crime. They used torture because previously there was torture in Mexico, before we governed there were massacres, the slogan was ‘kill them in the heat of the moment’,” said the politician from Tabasco.
During his morning press conference, held from the National Palace, the head of the Federal Executive Power questioned Israel, because, according to him, it was a government that was obliged not to allow torture.
“If there is a government that is obliged not to allow torture, to respect human rights, to act with humanism, it is the government of Israel. I hope that soon there will be information on this,” added the Mexican president.