Crime & Justice

Prosecutors say Garcia Luna betrayed Mexico, defense says there’s no proof

New York, Jan 23 (EFE).- US federal prosecutors on Monday in New York federal court accused Mexico’s former Public Safety secretary, Genaro Garcia Luna, of betraying both Mexico and the United States by collaborating with the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in opening arguments in the drug trafficking trial of the ex-chief of Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI.

Responding to the prosecution’s statement was Garcia Luna’s lawyer, who argued that the US government has no “objective” proof against the accused.

During this initial court session, Garcia Luna several times blew kisses to his wife and daughter, both of whom were present in the Manhattan federal courtroom of the Eastern District of New York.

Garcia Luna’s attorney, Cesar de Castro, twice presented different photographs of his client showing him with several top US officials, including then-President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as the late Sen. John McCain.

In their initial argument, prosecutors insisted that Mexico’s former top law enforcement official, the highest-ranking Mexican politician ever to be placed on trial in the US, took bribes from drug traffickers in exchange for facilitating the operation of their illicit business.

“The Sinaloa Cartel used the corruption of public officials in Mexico as a means and method of achieving the goals of its drug trafficking enterprise,” the indictment filed against Garcia Luna said.

However, the defense said that prosecutors have no photos, documents or recordings that can back up their accusations and insisted that their entire case is based on rumors and the speculation of criminals, many of whom – De Castro said – were imprisoned during the period when Garcia Luna was serving as the public safety secretary.

The first witness the prosecution called was Mexican drug kingpin Sergio Villarreal Barragan, alias “El Grande,” who is serving a prison term in the US and testified on Monday that he saw Garcia Luna “on several occasions to pay him bribes on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

Villarreal Barragan said that “With the help of the (Mexican) government, the cartel grew in terms of territory,” adding that it was thanks to Garcia Luna’s help that the group headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman could increase its cocaine trade and disassociate itself from – or get rid of – rival groups.

Mexico’s top official responsible for security during the 2006-2012 term of President Felipe Calderon is charged with five crimes, four of them linked to drug trafficking, namely participating in a criminal enterprise, conspiracy to internationally distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine and conspiracy to import cocaine.

The fifth charge filed against Garcia Luna is that he allegedly provided false testimony to US authorities.

Prosecutors claim that Garcia Luna helped the cartel by not interfering in their drug shipments from Mexico to the US and elsewhere, providing the Sinaloa Cartel with “sensitive law enforcement information” about anti-cartel operations, targeting the members of rival cartels and installing corrupt officials in areas that the cartel controlled.

EFE –/bp

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