Trial starts in Mexico top cop bribery trial

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Trial starts in Mexico top cop bribery trial

Opening arguments began Monday in the bribery case of Mexico’s former head of federal police — accused of raking in millions in return for aiding “El Chapo” Guzman’s ruthless Sinaloa cartel.

Genaro García Luna, 54, appeared before a jury in Brooklyn federal court, where prosecutors described him as a a trusted and tremendously powerful public servant who betrayed the Mexican public’s trust in exchange for lots of dinero.

“He kept taking dirty money and cocaine kept flowing into the United States,” Assistant US Attorney Philip Pilmar said.

“Because he controlled the country’s entire police force, the defendant thought he was above the law… No one is above the law.” 

Luna led Mexico’s Federal Investigative Agency from 2001 to 2005, and was named the secretary of public security in 2006 — placing him in charge of the Mexican Federal Police.

He held that role until 2012 — during which time, prosecutors allege, he was on the take.

Courtroom sketch showing a man pointing
Prosecutor Philip Pilmar points at Mexico’s former Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna during opening arguments in Garcia Luna’s trial on charges that he accepted millions of dollars to protect the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.
REUTERS

“While he was expected to work for the Mexican people, he had a second job, a dirtier job, a more profitable job,” Pilmar told the court, adding, “It’s hard for me to explain how powerful he really was because we don’t have any officer in the United States who consolidated that amount of power under them.”

Pilmar accused Luna of doing more than simply turning a blind eye to the Cartel’s drug trade.

The prosecutor said that, in exchange for bribes, Luna provided Cartel soldiers with police uniforms and badges — and even sent his own men as mercenaries to take out enemies of the Sinaloan operation.

“The defendant took some steps not to get caught,” Pilmar said. “He kept up appearances and made some arrests. He let us underlings do the dirty work.

Luna at a podium
Genaro Garcia Luna served as Mexico’s top cop from 2006 to 2012.
AP

“The defendant was a person who was supposed to be in charge of fighting the Sinaloa cartel,” Pilmar said. “Actually, he was their most valued asset.” 

Luna has maintained his innocence, and pleaded not guilty to charges of international cocaine trafficking conspiracy and making false statements.

The allegations against Luna first surfaced during the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in Brooklyn federal court in 2018, when a key witness described personally dropping off cases containing between $3 million and $5 million.

At the time, Luna vehemently denied the accusations.

“I never had any contact nor received people linked to criminal activity,” he said in a publicly released letter in November 2018.

“I have systematically been defamed as long as I have attacked the interests of organized crime, and they have never produced a single piece of evidence to back up these calumnies,” he claimed.

Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman
Former Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman was in power during Luna’s stint as head of Federal Police.
EPA

And another cartel heavy — convicted hitman Edgar “la Barbie” Valdez-Villareal — is expected to testify at trial that he, too, personally delivered money to Luna.

An attorney for Luna contended Monday that the prosecution’s key witnesses are all career criminals with an axe to grind against the former cop.

“He waged an all out war against organized crime,” defense attorney Cesar de Castro said of Luna.

“The government’s witnesses are casualties [of that war],” he said. “What better revenge than to bury the man who waged war against the cartels?

“All you have is the worst criminals in the world with overwhelming motives to lie,” he added.

Luna “was a public servant in Mexico for more than 20 years,” de Castro said, noting that he’d rid the ranks of thousands of Federal Police officers suspected of corruption. “He spent his entire career systematically fighting all kinds of criminal organizations.”  

“Don’t let the cartels play you,” he said to the jury. “They are career criminals and professional criminals.” 

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