Mexico’s former top security official Genaro García Luna faced trial in the U.S. on Tuesday for allegedly accepting millions of dollars in bribes from El Chapo’ Sinaloa cartel. García Luna is also facing charges for having links to other drug trafficking groups that have bribed him in exchange for helping them avoid capture and to transport their illegal goods. As the former security secretary of Mexican ex-President Felipe Calderón, he led a bloody war on the cartels that began in 2006 and lasted until 2012.

According to the New York Times, prosecutors said García Luna was so brazen in accepting millions of dollars, that he often stuffed in briefcases. The evidence laid against him was a bunch of payment stubs, but it was unclear whether those paychecks were from official jobs, private sector consultancy, cartel payments, or other bribes. The jury selection has been scheduled for Tuesday.

Prosecutors added that García Luna continued to live off the bribe money even after moving to the U.S. until he was arrested in 2019. His defense argued that he was living his life as a mere businessman.

Nevertheless. the case itself holds potential information on how Mexican cartels are able to conduct their illegal businesses so openly while being able to dodge law enforcement for so long. The cartels have long been suspected of handing out bribes to the military and police, all the way to the top country officials. The outcome of the case could very well prove such allegations.

Mexican security analyst David Saucedo said the political elite within the country, regardless of party affiliation, has sought for high-ranking officials within the government to be tried and imprisoned in the country for decades, in an effort to prevent any revelations of the ties between politicians and the cartels. He added that García Luna’s trial was one that broke the decades-long pattern.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador enthusiastically approved of the trial, which is expected to shed some light on the corruption of his predecessor’s administrations. This is despite fighting rigorously to avoid a U.S. trial on former Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos on similar charges in 2020.

García Luna pleaded not guilty to charges of continuing a criminal enterprise and other drug trafficking charges. Should he be found guilty, he could face up to decades in prison.

Former public security minister Genaro Garcia Luna
Former public security minister Genaro Garcia Luna oversaw Mexico's war on drug trafficking under ex-president Felipe Calderon. Photo by: AFP/Alfredo Estrella

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