One of the Dominican Republic's most notorious drug traffickers has claimed he financed the political campaigns of former president Leonel Fernandez in new revelations that go to the heart of connections between drugs and politics in the country.
In comments to TV news program Hilando Fino, former Dominican army captain and convicted drug trafficker Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo claimed he financed the 2002 and 2004 election campaigns of ex-President Fernandez, who he said owes him nearly $4.5 million, reported El Nacional.
"He knew who I was and he knew the money I was giving him for his campaign was dirty," Paulino told journalist Salvador Holguin.
Paulino also claimed he paid for a $200,000 power plant as a donation to Fernandez's Global Democracy and Development Foundation (FUNGLODE).
The interview followed the publication of a letter Paulino sent to Fernandez, who left the president's office in 2012, but remains head of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). In the letter, Paulino demanded the repayment of a $222,000 loan and criticized Fernandez for accepting his money then later approving his extradition to the United States.
Paulino was released from a US prison last year after serving a reduced sentence for collaborating with the US authorities. He was extradited in 2005 after he was caught with 1.3 tons of cocaine he was planning to ship to the United States.
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The accusations made by Paulino are the latest twist in a case that has revealed the depths of corruption in the Dominican Republic and the level to which drug trafficking has infiltrated state institutions and politics.
At the time of his rise in drug trafficking, Paulino was not only an army captain; he had also been working as a regional campaign manager and was a major donor for Fernandez's electoral rival, ex-President Hipolito Mejia.
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When Paulino was arrested, police also captured a lieutenant colonel from the national police, who was travelling in the cocaine-laden vehicle with him.
While Paulino was captured over a decade ago, his alleged former allies are still heavyweights in the world of Dominican politics. Meanwhile, more recent scandals, such as allegations that the country's anti-narcotics police have been operating as a drug trafficking organization, suggest corruption is still endemic in the security forces.