Former Mexican drug kingpin faces trial for complicity with El Chapo

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By Luke Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Opening statements begin Monday in the US trial of a former Mexican law enforcement officer once charged with a drug trafficking crackdown who is now charged with taking bribes from the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

Genaro Garcia Luna headed Mexico’s Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2001 to 2005 and served as Secretary of Public Security from 2006 to 2012, during which time he worked closely with U.S. counter-narcotics and intelligence agencies.

He pleaded not guilty in 2020 to US charges that he took millions of dollars to protect the cartel once led by imprisoned drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn say Garcia Luna gave the Sinaloa Cartel sensitive information about its rivals, as well as safe passage for drug shipments. He faces five charges, including continued criminal enterprise and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

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Garcia Luna, who was arrested in Texas in 2019, is one of the top Mexican officials charged with aiding drug trafficking groups, and there is much speculation in Mexico about whether the trial could embarrass former officials or even ex-presidents. to take. .

Garcia Luna led public safety under former President Felipe Calderon, who sent Mexico’s armed forces to crack down on drug gangs and organized crime during 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 coming out,” he told a news conference, saying U.S. officials should be called to testify if they were involved in events under investigation.

After Garcia Luna’s arrest, Calderon was deeply shocked and issued a statement saying he was completely unaware of what his former Secretary of Security allegedly did.

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The former president insisted that the “full force of the law” would be applied in the event that Garcia Luna was found guilty.

$3 MILLION IN A SUITCASE

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

Garcia Luna has previously accused drug traffickers of making false accusations against him as revenge for the actions he took against cartels. His lawyers have said in court documents that their client had “no significant wealth” when he moved to the United States in 2012, but later earned money working as a security consultant.

At Guzman’s 2018 trial, the brother of one of his partners testified that he gave Garcia Luna a briefcase containing $3 million in 2005 or 2006, and paid him an additional $3 million to $5 million in 2007. At the time, Garcia Luna called those allegations “slander” and without evidence.

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Guzman was sentenced to life in prison in 2019 following his conviction in Brooklyn on drug trafficking and murder charges. He is being held in a high-security “Supermax” prison in Colorado.

The Mexican government issued its own arrest warrant against Garcia Luna in 2020 on charges of illegal enrichment. Mexico also sued Garcia Luna in Florida, where he lived before his 2019 arrest, in an effort to recover what it called illegally obtained assets. The case is running.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Alistair Bell)

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