NEW YORK (AP) — Mexico’s former top security chief has been indicted in New York City on charges alleging he accepted a fortune in drug-money bribes from kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s notorious Sinaloa cartel to let it operate with impunity in Mexico.
Genaro García Luna, 51, a resident of Florida, was charged in Brooklyn federal court with three counts of cocaine trafficking conspiracy and a false statements charge, authorities said in a release.
García Luna was arrested Monday by federal agents in Dallas, where he was expected to make an initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors in Brooklyn, where a U.S. investigation into the cartel is based, said they will seek his removal to New York. The arrest and charges were announced Tuesday.
The defendant took bribes from Guzmán “while he controlled Mexico’s federal police force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement.
In 2018, former cartel member Jesús Zambada testified at El Chapo’s New York trial that he personally made at least $6 million in hidden payments to García Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
The cash was delivered during two meetings at a restaurant in Mexico between the start of 2005 and the end of 2007, he said.
Prosecutors said other cooperating witnesses have confirmed that the cartel paid García Luna tens of millions of dollars to clear the way for the Sinaloa cartel to safely ship multi-ton quantities of cocaine and other drugs into the United States.
The cartel “obtained, among other things, safe passage for its drug shipments, sensitive law enforcement information about investigations into the cartel and information about rival drug cartels,” according to court papers.
The papers add: “By the time the defendant relocated to the United States in 2012, he had amassed a personal fortune of millions of dollars that was inconsistent with a civil servant’s salary in Mexico.”
From 2001 to 2005, García Luna led Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency, and from 2006 to 2012 served as Mexico’s secretary of public security, controlling the nation’s federal police force, authorities said.
García Luna was viewed as the point man in then-President Felipe Calderón’s 2006-2012 war on drugs. As public safety secretary, he was one of the most feared members of Calderón’s government, but for years was dogged by allegations about his ties to drug traffickers.
Calderón’s government was criticized for not going after the Sinaloa cartel with the same energy as the cartel’s rivals. Calderon always rebuffed that criticism.
The former president said Tuesday that he was unaware of the details of the charges against García Luna.
“My position will always be on the side of justice and the law,” Calderón wrote in his Twitter account.
Estoy conociendo por redes sociales la versión del presunto arresto de Genaro García Luna. Desconozco detalles y estoy pendiente de la información que confirme el hecho, como de los cargos que, en su caso, se le imputen. Mi postura será siempre en favor de la justicia y la ley.
— Felipe Calderón (@FelipeCalderon) December 10, 2019
Guzmán was convicted on charges he was the driving force behind a massive drug conspiracy that spread murder and mayhem for more than two decades. He was sentenced this year to life in prison.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.