A Peruvian congressman is coming under pressure for his alleged ties to Mexican drug traffickers following a record cocaine seizure.
Congressman Jose Leon, a prominent member of former President Alejandro Toledo’s Peru Posible party, rented a house he owns in the northern coastal town of Huanchaco, outside Trujillo, to people who turned out to be drug traffickers.
The Mexican and individuals living in the house have been connected to eight tons of cocaine found hidden inside coal that was to be shipped to Europe, one of the top destinations for Peruvian drugs. The Interior Ministry, which flew the impounded cocaine to Lima last week, reported Tuesday that it has finished destroying the drugs.
Leon has denied having knowledge that his tenants were drug traffickers.
He said in an interview with news program Cuarto Poder over the weekend that a woman and four other individuals were living in the house when he and his wife bought it in 2012. The tenants left the house after Leon purchased it, but then approached him in 2013 asking to rent it out again.
“They were good clients because they had already lived there,” Leon said, according to daily El Comercio.
Leon said that he visited the house about 10 times in order to meet the tenants and check up on the condition of the house. He said that the individuals living there were always respectful.
News magazine Caretas published a photograph of Leon meeting with Rodrigo Torres, one of the alleged Mexican drug traffickers responsible for the cocaine shipment, outside the house.
Leon said that he planned to develop a real-estate project at the property once the contract was finished, but that the tenants kept on paying rent for two months after the contract expired in April.
Peru Posible said that they support Leon and don’t believe he was at all connected to the drug shipment. The party said it would not suspend him while the investigations are ongoing.
“We believe his version, we have no reason to doubt it,” said fellow Peru Posible lawmaker Daniel Mora.
Peru is the world’s biggest cocaine producer, and the money from the drugs is recognized as being a major obstacle to fighting corruption.