• Tallman

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and its PAN brokers


At the end of 2009, the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems sold boats and planes to Pemex, as well as sensors for the parastatal's pipelines in order to combat the “huachicoleo”, but these were never used. The Israeli firm operated with three PAN brokers: former attorney Antonio Lozano Gracia and brothers José Luis and Jorge Salas Cacho, who pocketed a million "on the sidelines" of the contract.


MEXICO CITY (Process) – During Felipe Calderón's administration, the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems sold war and espionage material to Pemex –to combat the milking of pipelines– valued at 110 million dollars. Apart from the contract, he transferred more than 140 million pesos to four Mexican companies, three of which belonged to prominent PAN members: former attorney Antonio Lozano Gracia and the brothers José Luis and Jorge Salas Cacho.

The confidential operation mobilized several actors. The Secretariats of National Defense and Navy and the Presidency itself gave their approval; Pemex paid Rafael and he paid his operators in Mexico: the Salas Cacho brothers, using their connections at the highest level in the oil company, were the brokers; A company called Petrolatin acted as liaison, and Lozano Gracia's office polished the legal aspect.

Enrique Peña Nieto's administration never used technology to stop fuel theft, but continued business with the Israel company. In a contract signed on December 23, 2015, in full vacation and two days before Christmas, the Federal Police bought him a spy platform for 2,459 million pesos.

Last June Alfonso Durazo, head of the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection (SSPC), affirmed that the contract had an extra cost and irregularities, and left the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador a debt of 1.3 billion pesos. Durazo indicated that he reported the case to the Attorney General's Office and the Ministry of Public Administration.

Rafael's first contract in Mexico, signed on November 18, 2009 by Pemex Exploración y Producción (PEP) and Israeli executives, included the installation of sensors in pipelines, as well as the purchase of a dozen aircraft and unmanned boats. that would be controlled from two Command Centers (C4) in Monterrey and Villahermosa.

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The document did not contemplate any payment for Mexican intermediaries. Rafael's transfers were the product of a deal with Petrolatin, which in turn subcontracted to the PAN. Héctor de la Garza Poinsot, founder of Petrolatin, estimates that his company earned around 40 million pesos, Lozano Gracia's office about 45 million, and the Salas Cacho brothers, 60 million.

“It did not suit me fiscally that they pay me everything; I negotiated with Rafael, that they better pay them. Everything is in order there, ”says De la Garza.

The Deutsche Bank document

The deposits were to remain secret. However, in April 2013 the anti-laundering team at the Deutsche Bank office in the United States sent a suspicious activity report to the Financial Intelligence Unit of the United States Department of the Treasury (Fincen), about a series of 312 strange transfers made. by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd between January and March 2013, for a total of $ 135 million.

Almost all the recipients were other Israeli companies, except four Mexican ones: Antonio Lozano Gracia y Asociados; Petrolatin, SA de CV; Grupo Empresarial Saca, SA de CV and Gestión y Desarrollo, SA de CV –of José Luis and Jorge Salas Cacho, respectively.

The document is part of more than 2,100 reports of suspicious Fincen activity obtained by BuzzFeed News, which shared the files with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which for 16 months coordinated 400 journalists from 110 outlets around the world - including Process– in the global investigation called Fincen Files.

In separate interviews, Lozano Gracia and De la Garza defend the acquisition of the material and their role in the operation. The technology was efficient, both argue; They even assure that the Peña Nieto government did not use it to combat the huachicoleo.

When he arrived in Los Pinos, they say, the Mexican named his former head of bodyguards, General Eduardo León Trauwitz, who has been a fugitive since May 2019, accused of crimes of organized crime and illegal theft of hydrocarbons, as head of Pemex security. .

Lozano Gracia, who claims a "friendship" of many years with Calderón - he was secretary general of the PAN when the Michoacan was president of the party - assures: "I never discussed a professional matter" with him.

Both he and De la Garza say they distanced themselves from the Salas Cacho brothers. The first says that by a private legal suit; the second, because "I don't like their ways of operating."

José Luis Salas Cacho is a controversial businessman and has been an influential figure in the PAN for the past four decades. He served as a financial operator in various electoral campaigns, notably that of Vicente Fox, during whose six-year term he was an external advisor to Pemex and at the same time a member of the board of directors of Transportation Maritime Mexicana, a company that received 219 million dollars from the oil company.

Close to Lozano Gracia, both participated actively in the campaign of Manuel Clouthier in 1988, they represented the PAN before the then Federal Electoral Institute in the nineties; In 2007, journalist Roberto Rock pointed out that Salas Cacho and Lozano Gracia were involved in efforts within Pemex to build a “clandestine patrimony” for the Fox family.

Salas Cacho participated in controversial megaprojects, such as the failed Dragon Mart center in Cancun, and is currently part of a lawsuit to control the giant industrial park Logistik in San Luis Potosí.

After the contract with Pemex and during the Peña Nieto government, the Salas Cacho brothers continued the espionage business with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Process searched for them, without success, first through a lawyer and then on their cell phones; He also searched via email for Rafael's version in Israel and Mexico. There was no answer.

The Israeli embassy also declined to answer a questionnaire. For weeks this magazine sought out the SSPC but did not receive a formal response, and when it asked Pemex about the status of the material, it had no luck either.

The plot

Rafael's businesses are secret: the company only sells to public authorities, but no contracts appear in its records. All the institutions to which Proceso sent requests for information said they found no contracts, including the SSPC and the National Guard –which replaced the Federal Police–, even though Durazo Montaño denounced the contract between Rafael and this police.

De la Garza recalls that in 2007 the Colombian Moisés Jacobo Bibliowicz Volovitz, who represented Rafael in Latin America, contacted him.

"He says to me: 'Hector, why don't you help Rafael and me to do business in Mexico?" Recalls the oil businessman, who for two decades represented the Swiss giant Glencore in Mexico.

And he adds: “We made several attempts, but the world of intelligence sales is very complicated, very closed; it is only for a small group of people ”.

Foreign technologies move in a circle of agents, military in function or retirees and intermediaries that operate in complete opacity and always on the verge of illegality, sometimes even in organized crime settings. The business took off during Fox's six-year term and had its peak during Calderón's –with the impulse of Genaro García Luna– and Peña Nieto.

Billions of pesos were spent on products from the Israeli companies Verint Systems, Nice (NiceTrack) and NSO (Pegasus), Teletron, Nice Systems or Elbit Systems, as well as the German Gamma Group (FinFisher) or the Italian Hacking Team ( Remote Control Systems).

Accessing buyers requires connections in administrations. For De la Garza these were the Salas Cacho brothers. She remembers that José Luis told her: “‘ Hey, Héctor, do you know an intelligence and security company? Because Pemex is interested in a system to prevent fuel theft. '

“José Luis is a politician and knows a lot of people in Mexico. He was very well connected; He had access to be received by deputy directors, managers, who told him things; He was an advisor there at Pemex, he knew all the directors. Many of them started with Fox and stayed with Calderón. Not the CEO, but those below, from PEP, Refining, PMI.

“And Javier, his brother, was very well connected at a lower level. He had a lot of information about what they were going to buy, what they required; important information for a company like Rafael, ”says De la Garza.

It says that Rafael's offer received the green light from the military, the Center for Research and National Security and from President Calderón himself, who was present at a show at C4 in Monterrey. The Sedena was going to use the unmanned planes and the Navy the boats, not only to combat fuel theft, but for its own activities.

“Remember that at that time Pemex was very rich, because a barrel of oil was at $ 100. And the one with the most money was PEP; Back then, PEP financed many things from Sedena and Marina; I bought them, but it was for them, because they didn't have a budget, ”he explains to the reporter.

De la Garza expedited the Pemex contract with Rafael: one, the main one, for 80 million dollars "and something"; another three annexes for 12, 10 and seven million dollars. respectively In return, Petrolatin represented Rafael in Mexico, and subcontracted the Salas Cacho and his friend Antonio Lozano Gracia for supervision.

Led by his mentor Diego Fernández de Cevallos, Lozano was a member of the PAN between 1979 and 2012 and became part of its leadership; he was attorney general during the six-year term of Ernesto Zedillo; at the same time he got involved in business. He and his partners were civil servants: one of them, César Nava Vázquez, was Calderón's private secretary and general counsel for Pemex during Fox's administration.

They took criminal cases, such as the defense of former Sonoran governor Guillermo Padrés Elías, but also fiscal, administrative, "public works", civil or commercial matters, among others.

When he receives Proceso, the lawyer has the contracts with Rafael, but he refuses to show them to the reporter - "we signed a confidentiality agreement," he says. He claims that he and his collaborators worked as "fucking pawns who dragged the pencil."

The first steps in Mexico

The criminal lawyer affirms that “an intelligent, comprehensive proposal was combined with a huge problem, since the theft of fuel cost 2 billion dollars. It was also important that they were representatives of the government of Israel. Technologically, the Israelite gentlemen are really top ”.

Top, and with a solid presence in Mexico. According to a report by the Palestinian organization Stop The Wall published last June, the Israeli companies Elbit Systems, International Security and Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industry, Nice Systems or Plansan Sasa operate in the country.

The document does not mention Rafael, but says that the companies began to sell war material in 1972; In the following decades, its technology was used both in counterinsurgency tasks –against the Zapatista Army of National Liberation–, in intelligence work –and its derivations of illegal espionage– and in the militarization of the southern border.

The Pemex pipeline business was Rafael's first step in Mexico: in 2014 the parastatal company opened a subsidiary, called Rafael Sistemas de Seguridad, SA de CV. Petrolatin did the paperwork and its employees got the premises, rented apartments and ironed out the accounting.

His first legal representative was Rogelio López-Velarde Estrada, the president of the Dentons law firm in Mexico, which represents dozens of foreign companies in the country. López-Velarde - who is no longer an employee of Rafael - has strong connections in the Mexican energy sector, as he has represented numerous oil companies. He is currently an external advisor to the Energy Regulatory Commission.

After the creation of the Rafael subsidiary, the company stopped working with Petrolatin. “Didi (Eddy Lieberman) didn't even call me to thank me or anything,” De la Garza laments.

And he adds: “Then they continued with the Salas Cacho, to date. And I tell you that they continue to do so, because I have met them here with the Israelites in various restaurants, in hotels in Mexico City ”.

Report published in issue 2291 of Proceso magazine, already in circulation.

By MATHIEU TOURLIERE, September 26, 2020, published on processo (Spanish)

Image by TitusStaunton from Pixabay

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