January 29, 2023

By Luc Cohen

NEWYORK – Opening statements are set to begin Monday in the US trial of a former Mexican law enforcement officer once responsible for fighting drug trafficking and now accused of taking bribes from the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

Genaro Garcia Luna headed Mexico’s federal investigative agency from 2001 to 2005 and was Minister of Public Security from 2006 to 2012. During this time he worked closely with US anti-narcotics and intelligence agencies.

He pleaded not guilty in 2020 to US charges of accepting millions of dollars to protect the cartel once run by imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn say Garcia Luna gave the Sinaloa cartel confidential information about his rivals as well as safe passage for drug shipments. He faces five counts, including continuing criminal activities and conspiracy to sell cocaine.

Garcia Luna, who was arrested in Texas in 2019, is one of the highest-ranking Mexican officials accused of aiding drug trafficking groups, and there is considerable speculation inside Mexico as to whether the trial could embarrass former officials or even ex-presidents.

Garcia Luna headed public security under former President Felipe Calderon, who dispatched the Mexican armed forces to fight drug gangs and put organized crime at the heart of his 2006-2012 administration.

Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an opponent of Calderon, last Wednesday urged the public to wait and see.

“It’s all going to come out,” he told a news conference, saying US officials should be subpoenaed to testify if they were involved in the events being investigated.

After Garcia Luna’s arrest, Calderon expressed his deep shock and issued a statement saying he had no idea what his former security minister was said to have done.

The former president urged the “full force of law” to be used if Garcia Luna were found guilty.

$3 MILLION IN ONE SUITCASE

During the eight-week trial, prosecutors plan to call former senior cartel members to testify about bribes paid to Garcia Luna, court filings show.

Garcia Luna has previously accused drug traffickers of making false allegations against him in revenge for the actions he took against cartels. His attorneys said in court filings that their client “did not have any assets to speak of” when he moved to the United States in 2012, but later made money from his work as a national security consultant.

During Guzman’s 2018 trial, the brother of one of his partners testified that he gave Garcia Luna a $3 million suitcase in 2005 or 2006 and paid him another $3 million to $5 million in 2007. Garcia Luna called these allegations “slander” and without evidence at the time.

Guzman was sentenced to life in prison in 2019 after being convicted of drug trafficking and conspiracy to murder in Brooklyn. He is being held in a maximum security “Supermax” prison in Colorado.

Mexico’s government issued its own arrest warrant for Garcia Luna in 2020 on charges of illegal enrichment. Mexico also sued Garcia Luna in Florida, where he lived before his arrest in 2019, to recover illegally acquired assets. The case is not yet closed.

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