FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2009 file photo, Mexico's then Federal Secretary of Public Safety, Genaro Garcia Luna speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Mexico City. Garcia Luna has been indicted in New York on charges that he took millions of dollars in bribes from a drug cartel. Garcia Luna was arrested Monday, Dec. 9. 2019, by federal agents in Dallas. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

Mexican ex-security chief charged in US in drug conspiracy

December 10, 2019 - 1:54 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Mexico's former top security chief has been indicted in New York City on charges alleging he accepted a fortune in drug-money bribes from kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's notorious Sinaloa cartel to let it operate with impunity in Mexico.

Genaro Garcia Luna, 51, a resident of Florida, was charged in Brooklyn federal court with three counts of cocaine trafficking conspiracy and a false statements charge, authorities said in a release.

Garcia Luna was arrested Monday by federal agents in Dallas, where he was expected to make an initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors in Brooklyn, where a U.S. investigation into the cartel is based, said they will seek his removal to New York. The arrest and charges were announced Tuesday.

The defendant took bribes from Guzman “while he controlled Mexico’s federal police force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement.

In 2018, former cartel member Jesus Zambada testified at El Chapo's New York trial that he personally made at least $6 million in hidden payments to Garcia Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada.

The cash was delivered during two meetings at a restaurant in Mexico between the start of 2005 and the end of 2007, he said.

Prosecutors said other cooperating witnesses have confirmed that the cartel paid Garcia Luna tens of millions of dollars to clear the way for the Sinaloa cartel to safely ship multi-ton quantities of cocaine and other drugs into the United States.

The cartel “obtained, among other things, safe passage for its drug shipments, sensitive law enforcement information about investigations into the cartel and information about rival drug cartels,” according to court papers.

The papers add: “By the time the defendant relocated to the United States in 2012, he had amassed a personal fortune of millions of dollars that was inconsistent with a civil servant’s salary in Mexico."

From 2001 to 2005, Garcia Luna led Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency, and from 2006 to 2012 served as Mexico’s secretary of public security, controlling the nation's federal police force, authorities said.

Garcia Luna was viewed as the point man in then-President Felipe Calderon’s 2006-2012 war on drugs. As public safety secretary, he was one of the most feared members of Calderon’s government, but for years was dogged by allegations about his ties to drug traffickers.

Calderon’s government was criticized for not going after the Sinaloa cartel with the same energy as the cartel’s rivals. Calderon always rebuffed that criticism.

The former president said Tuesday that he was unaware of the details of the charges against Garcia Luna.

“My position will always be on the side of justice and the law,” Calderon wrote in his Twitter account.

Guzman was convicted on charges he was the driving force behind a massive drug conspiracy that spread murder and mayhem for more than two decades. He was sentenced this year to life in prison.

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Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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