US federal prosecutors said the former official was the Sinaloa cartel’s “most valuable asset”
Mexico’s former head of public security, Genaro García Luna, has been accused of taking bribes from a major cartel and allowing the criminal group to smuggle vast quantities of narcotics into the United States. Now facing charges in a US federal court, the allegations against Luna were first raised during the trial of notorious drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.
The ex-official’s trial got underway on Monday in a Brooklyn courtroom, where Luna was accused of playing a key role in the Sinaloa cartel’s smuggling operations while working as security chief between 2006 and 2012.
“The evidence will show that the defendant, the person who was supposed to be in charge of fighting the Sinaloa cartel, was actually its most valuable asset,” the prosecution said in its opening statement, adding “The defendant took millions of dollars of bribes again, again and again,” and “betrayed his country and ours.”
A defense attorney for Luna, Cesar de Castro, attacked the government’s case in his own opening statement, arguing there is “no money, no photos, no video, no texts, no emails, no recordings, no documents – no credible, believable evidence that Genaro García Luna helped the cartel.”
“Don’t let the cartels play you,” he told the jury, adding that cartel members set to testify in the case were only doing so to reduce their own sentences and take revenge against a Mexican official formerly involved in combating criminal groups.
Luna was arrested in late 2019 after a witness in the trial of Sinaloa boss ‘El Chapo’ revealed that the official had accepted millions of dollars to look the other way as the cartel trafficked drugs through Mexico. According to ProPublica, US investigators uncovered evidence of his role in drug smuggling years earlier, including while Luna was still in office in 2012, but federal prosecutors repeatedly denied requests to charge him. While he was ultimately indicted on five counts linked to trafficking and corruption – each carrying sentences ranging from 10 years to life in prison – the reason for the years-long delay remains unclear.
The trial kicked off weeks after Mexican authorities arrested Ovidio ‘El Raton’ Guzman-Lopez, the son of El Chapo, prompting violent clashes between cartel members and police that left at least 30 people dead. Though a Mexico City judge recently barred the man’s extradition to the US, American authorities are still working to have him released into their custody. The elder Guzman was extradited to the US in 2017 and later convicted on 10 criminal courts, for which he received a life sentence.