Cruz, Hayek deny links with Mexican drug trafficker

June 13th, 2008 - 3:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Mexico City, June 13 (IANS) Leading Hollywood actresses Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek have denied any link with Mexican drug trafficker Sergio Villarreal, the owner of a ranch where the two actress have reportedly stayed while shooting the film “Bandidas” in 2004. “The production of Bandidas arranged accommodation for all the actors, which is common practice in the film industry. Penelope Cruz decided to stay in a hotel, while Salma Hayek preferred to stay in a house,” the two actresses said Thursday in a statement, EFE news agency reported Friday.

“Salma Hayek never knew who owned the house or had any contact with its owners or with anything associated with the rented place, which was paid for by the production company,” the statement said.

“Neither the actresses nor their respective film companies were involved in the film’s production,” the statement issued by Cruz’s agent concluded.

Mexican newspaper El Universal reported Tuesday that the two movie stars spent several nights at a ranch owned by Sergio Villarreal Barragan in the northern state of Durango.

The 38-year-old Villarreal is a drug trafficker who operates in Durango, Coahuila and Sinaloa, the newspaper said, citing documents from the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, known as the PGR.

The property was rented during filming to house Hayek, El Universal said, without specifying whether the actresses knew the identity of the owner.

Villarreal, according to the newspaper, is a member of the criminal organization run by the Beltran Leyva brothers, former partners in the Sinaloa drug cartel of fugitive capo Joaquin Guzman and now allies of Los Zetas, army veterans and deserters working as hired guns for the Gulf cartel.

Mexican authorities accuse Villarreal, a 6-foot-5-inch former detective, of smuggling cocaine into the US and are investigating his alleged participation in several murders, including killings of law-enforcement personnel.

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