Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Ex-Mexico drug czar helped Sinaloa cartel’s ‘cocaine empire,’ U.S. prosecutor says

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Ex-Mexico drug czar helped Sinaloa cartel's 'cocaine empire,' U.S. prosecutor says © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s former Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna sits in the courtroom during his trial on charges that he accepted millions of dollars to protect the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, once run by imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzm

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A former Mexican law enforcement official once in charge of the country’s battle against drug trafficking helped the Sinaloa cartel build a “global cocaine empire” in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes, a U.S. prosecutor said on Wednesday.

In closing arguments at Genaro Garcia Luna’s trial in federal court in Brooklyn, prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy told jurors the cartel once run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman could not have shipped drugs from Mexico to the United States without Garcia Luna’s complicity.

“These leaders paid the defendant bribes for protection – and they got what they paid for,” Komatireddy said, referring to Guzman and two other top-ranking Sinaloa cartel figures.

Garcia Luna, she said, “used his official government position to make millions of dollars for himself from the people he was supposed to prosecute.”

Garcia Luna, one of the highest-ranking Mexican officials ever accused of helping drug cartels, led Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency from 2001 to 2005 and was public security minister from 2006 to 2012. He worked closely with U.S. counter-narcotics and intelligence agencies as part of former president Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on cartels.

He has pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges, including narcotics conspiracy and continuing criminal enterprise. His lawyers have argued that the prosecution’s case relies on unreliable testimony from convicted cartel members who want to lower their sentences and get revenge on the man who arrested them.

The defense is expected to make its closing argument once prosecutors finish.

Komatireddy said jurors should trust the nine cooperating witnesses, saying they testified because they had direct knowledge of the bribes, did not coordinate their accounts, and in many instances were rivals.

“I’m not asking you to like them,” she said. “These people are criminals. But it takes one to know one.”

Guzman was sentenced to life in prison in 2019 following his conviction in Brooklyn on drug trafficking and murder conspiracy charges. He is held at a high-security “Supermax” prison in Colorado.

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