A US jury found the former face of Mexico’s fight on drugs guilty of drug trafficking.
The former minister of security for Mexico, Genaro Garca Luna, was found guilty of stealing millions of dollars from the Sinaloa drug cartel, the largest organized crime organization in Mexico.
Garca Luna, who was detained in the state of Texas in 2019, has asserted his innocence.
Life in prison is a possibility for the 54-year-old.
The Department of Justice announced that Garca Luna will at the very least serve the obligatory minimum of 20 years.
After a four-week trial and three days of jury deliberation at the US District Court in Brooklyn, New York, the verdict was rendered.
The former chief of the Mexican equivalent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations allegedly collected millions of dollars from members of Joaqun “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa drug cartel who delivered them in briefcases, according to the prosecution.
The highest-ranking Mexican official ever tried in the US is Garca Luna, who relocated there after leaving office.
On Twitter, Jess Ramrez Cuevas, a representative for current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, praised the choice and criticised Felipe Calderón, who served as the country’s previous leader.
Under Mr. Calderón, who supervised a war on drug cartels that started in 2006, Garca Luna worked.
Mr. Ramirez Cuevas wrote, “Justice has come for the former squire of Felipe Calderón.” The atrocities committed against our people “will never be forgotten.”
The verdict has “huge consequences” for the US and Mexican governments’ fights against corruption and organized crime, according to British author Ioan Grillo, an authority on Mexico’s criminal underworld who resides in Mexico.
According to him, this might inspire prosecutors to pursue other cases. By relying solely on the testimony of drug dealers and failing to have any physical evidence, they “took a certain risk.”
He noted that Garca Luna’s sentence might also deter other Mexican authorities from acting in a “openly corrupt” manner.
If you’re a Mexican agent, you’ll be considering how much exposure you give the Americans, he said.
The ex-minister, who is credited with being the brains behind Mexico’s war on drugs, is alleged to have given the Sinaloa drug cartel information about its competitors and forewarned it about police enforcement activities.
Garca Luna refuted the charges.
The allegations of Garca Luna’s connection with the Sinaloa cartel were first made public during the trial of Joaquin Guzmán, who was given a 2019 sentence of life in prison plus 30 years.
During Guzmán’s trial, a former cartel member by the name of Jesus “Rey” Zambada testified that he had sent millions of dollars in payments to Garca Luna.
Nine cooperating witnesses, the majority of whom were convicted cartel members, including Zambada, testified in support of the former minister’s prosecution.
Garca Luna opted not to testify at the trial, but his wife, Linda Cristina Pereyra, did so and made an effort to minimize their means of subsistence. The Sinaloa cartel could not have created a “global cocaine empire” without Garca Luna’s assistance, according to US prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy in her closing statement.
She said that they bought the defendant’s protection with bribes. And they received what they had paid for.
The witnesses, according to Garca Luna’s attorneys, were “saving themselves” by testifying against him after committing “horrific crimes.”
Mexico’s unresolved student disappearance case
The conviction wouldn’t surprise anyone who had been closely following the trial in Mexico, according to Alejandro Hope, a retired intelligence official from Mexico.
He told BBC News that while many people would still be skeptical, “That was definitely enough to convince the jury.”
The cooperation between the US and Mexico could “complicate some elements,” he warned.
There won’t be any sort of break-up or public argument, he continued. “But the fact that the US is keeping an eye on Mexican officials will be known. That will make life difficult for certain people.”