Probe looks at cardinal's bank books

Probe looks at cardinal's bank books

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Roman Catholic cardinal who has been mentioned as a possible future pope is being investigated for possible money laundering, Mexico's Justice Department confirmed Thursday.

The investigation grew out of complaints by a former attorney general who has a long-running dispute with Guadalajara Cardinal Juan Sandoval over the investigation into the shooting death of Sandoval's predecessor, a Justice Department spokesman told The Associated Press.

The investigation was revealed Thursday by the newspaper Reforma, which reported that federal investigators have asked Mexico's National Banking and Securities Commission to turn over all banking records for the past seven years for Sandoval, his deceased mother and 10 brothers and sisters.

Also being investigated are Jose Antonio Ortega Sanchez, a lawyer who reportedly represented Sandoval during investigations into the death of his predecessor; Jose Maria Guardia, the owner of a race track in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez and partner in several gambling outfits in Mexico; Fernando Guzman, a federal congressman from President Vicente Fox's National Action Party; and Jose Salazar Lopez, another former cardinal from Guadalajara who died in 1991.

Reforma published photographed excerpts of a Justice Department document, dated Aug. 22 and marked "urgent and confidential," that requested information on bank accounts, money transfers, stock transactions and credit activities inside and outside of Mexico. The newspaper did not say how it obtained the document.

Justice Department spokesman Javier Herrera said the investigation is being conducted because of a complaint by Jorge Carpizo, who was head of the Justice Department at the time of the 1993 slaying of Sandoval's predecessor, Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo.

Herrera did not release other details. However, it would be very unusual for such a complaint by itself to trigger such an extensive investigation.

Federal investigators have repeatedly concluded that feuding drug traffickers mistook Cardinal Posadas for a rival in the heat of a gunbattle at Guadalajara's airport and shot him as he stepped out of his luxury car. Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was convicted of playing a role in the cardinal's killing.

Sandoval, Congressman Guzman and others have claimed that Carpizo and other officials covered up evidence that Posadas was killed because he knew about top-level government involvement in drug trafficking.

The outcome could affect Posadas' eligibility for sainthood as a martyr. Sandoval himself occasionally has been mentioned as a possible future pope.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Guzman said the Justice Department's investigation was "clearly persecution and intimidation so that we will stop demanding the truth, but we won't do that; we will continue to insist that the truth is uncovered."

Guzman said that he was considering filing his own complaint with the Justice Department to investigate the bank accounts of Carpizo and his ex-boss, former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, "and we'll see if they give that complaint the same attention they are giving to Carpizo's."

Reforma reported in May that Carpizo had submitted documents to the Justice Department implicating Sandoval and Guardia, the dog track owner, in money laundering. Last week, the newspaper reported that officials were investigating Guardia but said it was unclear if the cardinal was part of the investigation.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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