Ex-Mexico top cop charged with protecting El Chapo's cartel

Genaro Garcia Luna was charged with accepting millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for providing protection to the Sinaloa cartel.
Image: Mexico's Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna attends a meeting in Mexico City on Nov. 29, 2012.
Mexico's then-Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna attends a meeting in Mexico City on Nov. 29, 2012.Tomas Bravo / Reuters file

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By Tom Winter

A former top law enforcement official in the Mexican government was charged by the U.S. government with accepting millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for providing protection to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's notorious drug cartel.

Genaro Garcia Luna, 51, who served in a Cabinet post overseeing Mexico's federal police, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn last week on three counts of cocaine trafficking conspiracy and one count of making false statements for his role in allowing the Sinaloa cartel to operate "with impunity" in Mexico. He was arrested Monday in Dallas, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York announced Tuesday as it unsealed the indictment.

"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 Donoghue said.

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Garcia Luna served as Mexico's secretary of public security from 2006 to 2012 and has been living in the United States since 2012. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and the maximum of a life sentence.

The Sinaloa cartel "obtained safe passage for its drug shipments, sensitive law enforcement information about investigations into the Cartel, and information about rival drug cartels," in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes to Garcia Luna, prosecutors said. This facilitated imports of "multi-ton quantities of cocaine and other drugs into the U.S."

On two occasions, Garcia Luna's bribes arrived by courier — cartel members personally delivered briefcases containing $3 million to $5 million, prosecutors noted. By the time Garcia Luna left government and relocated to Florida, he had amassed a personal fortune worth millions of dollars, they said.

"The government has interviewed numerous other cooperating witnesses who have confirmed that the Cartel paid the defendant tens of millions of dollars over several years, in exchange for the defendant's protection of the Cartel," prosecutors said.

One of the most powerful drug cartels in the world, the Sinaloa cartel is known for its violence and drug trafficking. Over the decades, the cartel has directed a multibillion-dollar narcotics trafficking empire, shipping huge quantities of drugs from Latin America into the U.S., including cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine.

Prosecutors consider Garcia Luna a significant flight risk. "The defendant prioritized his personal greed over his sworn duties as a public servant, and assured the continued success and safety of one of the world's most notorious trafficking organizations", they wrote in a request to block bail.

Garcia Luna's lawyer did not immediately respond to request for comment. He is scheduled to appear in court next Tuesday for a detention hearing.

Adiel Kaplan contributed.