In exchange for millions of dollars in bribes, a former top Mexican security official allegedly allowed the Sinaloa cartel to operate with impunity.
That's the accusation in a criminal indictment unsealed Tuesday in Brooklyn. The official, Genaro Garcia Luna, served as the secretary of public security in Mexico from 2006 to 2012. Federal agents arrested Garcia Luna in Dallas on Monday.
The former Mexican official is charged with three counts of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and one count of making false statements. The government wants Garcia Luna moved to New York to face the charges. He's believed to be the highest ranking Mexican official charged with drug trafficking in the United States, The Los Angeles Times reports.
"Garcia Luna stands accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from 'El Chapo' Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel while [Garcia Luna] controlled Mexico's Federal Police Force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico," U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue wrote in a statement. "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."
The U.S. Attorney's Office says that, in exchange for bribes, Garcia Luna allowed the Sinaloa cartel to safely move its drug shipments, provided members with sensitive information about law enforcement investigations and passed along information about rival cartels. Those actions, the indictment says, allowed the Sinaloa cartel to import tons of cocaine and other drugs into the United States.
In two instances, the cartel delivered briefcases to Garcia Luna holding between $3 million and $5 million in bribes. Financial records show he had built millions in wealth by the time he moved to the U.S. in 2012. The indictment also says Garcia Luna lied about his past criminal actions on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel when he applied for naturalization in 2018.
Garcia Luna served as secretary of public security under President Felípe Calderón, who declared war on Mexico's drug traffickers.
A 2010 NPR investigation found evidence of collusion between parts of the Mexican army and the Sinaloa cartel. Dozens of interviews suggested that members of the cartel depended on bribes to top government officials to help the cartel leader at the time, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, evade capture. In July, a federal judge in New York sentenced Guzmán to life in prison, plus 30 years.
If Garcia Luna is convicted of the drug conspiracy charge, he will face a minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment, but it could go as high as life in prison.