Former Mexican minister heads to trial accused of aiding El Chapo

The trial of a former Mexican law enforcement official has started in New York. Genaro Garcia Luna stands accused of taking bribes from the powerful Sinaloa Cartel once run by imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Genaro Garcia Luna led Mexico's Federal Investigation Agency from 2001 to 2005 and held the role of Public Security Minister from 2006 to 2012, during which time he was working closely with U.S. counter-narcotics and intelligence agencies.

He pleaded not guilty in 2020 to U.S. charges that he had accepted millions of dollars to protect the cartel. Federal prosecutors claim that Garcia Luna disclosed sensitive information to the Sinaloa Cartel about its rivals as well as safe passage for drug shipments. He faces five counts, including continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

Garcia Luna, who moved to the U.S. in 2016 and worked there as a security consultant, was arrested in 2019 in Texas. He is one of the highest-ranking Mexican officials to be accused of aiding drug trafficking groups, and there is considerable speculation inside Mexico about whether the trial could bring shame to former officials or even ex-presidents.

Garcia Luna ran public security under former President Felipe Calderon, who sent in Mexico's armed forces to tackle the drug gangs and made clamping down on organized crime the focus of his 2006-2012 administration.

Following Garcia Luna's arrest, Calderon expressed profound shock and issued a statement saying he was completely unaware of what his former security minister is alleged to have done.

Millions in a suitcase

During the eight-week trial, prosecutors plan to call former senior cartel members to testify about bribes paid to Garcia Luna, court papers show.

During Guzman's trial in 2018, the brother of one of his partners testified that he had given Garcia Luna a suitcase containing USD 3 million in 2005 or 2006, and paid him another USD 3 or 5 million in 2007. Garcia Luna at the time called those allegations “defamation” and being without proof.

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

In 2020, the Mexican government issued an arrest warrant of its own for Garcia Luna on charges of illegal enrichment. Mexico also sued Garcia Luna in Florida, where he had been living before his 2019 arrest, in an effort to recover what they called illegally obtained assets.