The former secretary of public security in Mexico was indicted by federal prosecutors in a New York City court on Tuesday on charges he accepted millions of dollars in bribes from a drug cartel, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Genaro García Luna, who served under the administration of former President Felipe Calderón from 2006 to 2012, is accused of allowing the Sinaloa cartel of “El Chapo” Guzman to operate with impunity in Mexico in exchange for millions of dollars.
At the time the alleged bribery took place, García Luna controlled Mexico’s Federal Police Force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico. He was considered an architect of Mexico’s war on drugs and oversaw the militarized crackdown on organized crime which was launched in 2006.
The 51-year-old was arrested by federal agents in Dallas, Texas, yesterday and charged with three counts of cocaine trafficking conspiracy and a false statements charge.
According to the indictment, the government is now seeking his removal to the Eastern District of New York to face the charges.
“Today’s arrest demonstrates our resolve to bring to justice those who help cartels inflict devastating harm on the United States and Mexico, regardless of the positions they held while committing their crimes,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said.
The indictment and other court filings by the government say that García Luna received millions of dollars in bribes from 2001 to 2012 while he occupied high-ranking law enforcement positions in the Mexican government.
From 2001 to 2005, he led Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency, and from 2006 to 2012 he served as Mexico’s secretary of public security, controlling Mexico’s Federal Police Force.
In exchange for bribes, he provided the Sinaloa Cartel with protection and helped facilitate its drug trafficking activities, giving them safe passage for their drug shipments, providing them with information about law enforcement investigations into the cartel and other rival drug cartels.
On two occasions, the cartel personally delivered bribe payments to García Luna in briefcases containing between $3 million and $5 million, the indictment says.
In the 2018 trial of El Chapo, real name Joaquín Guzmán, former cartel operative Jesús Zambada said that he had bribed a former Mexican cabinet minister with millions of dollars stuffed into two suitcases which were hand-delivered to a restaurant.
At the time, García Luna dismissed the testimony as “lies, defamation, and perjury.”
According to financial records obtained by the government, García Luna relocated to the United States in 2012 with a personal fortune of millions of dollars.
In 2018, he applied for naturalization and allegedly lied about his previous criminal acts on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel in his application.
If convicted of the drug conspiracy charge, García Luna faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment.
The Sinaloa Cartel was established by El Chapo in 1989 and over time became a profitable global drug-trafficking operation, eventually becoming the wealthiest and most powerful cartel in Mexico.
El Chapo was arrested in Guatemala in 1993, and extradited to Mexico where he was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison but continued to run his business after allegedly bribing staff.
In 2001, when a Mexican Supreme Court ruling increased the likelihood that he would be extradited to the United States, El Chapo escaped the prison by hiding in a laundry cart.
Over 70 people, including the director of the prison, were implicated in his escape.
He remained at large for over a decade, allegedly living in the mountainous region of Sierra Madre while the cartel underwent a number of violent clashes with the government.
In 2014, he was arrested for the second time while when the Mexican Navy raided a seaside hotel where he had been visiting family. He was placed in a maximum security prison to await trial, but escaped in July 2015 via an elaborate tunnel nearly a mile long.
Finally, nearly six months later, he was captured near the town of Juan José Ríos after escaping a raid on a house in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, and expedited to the United States in 2017.
In 2019, he was found guilty of a number of criminal charges, given a life sentence at high security prison, ADX Florence, and ordered to pay $12.6 billion in restitution.