A US jury has convicted the former face of Mexico's drug war of drug trafficking. Former Mexican security minister Genaro Garca Luna was found guilty of accepting millions of dollars from Mexico's largest criminal organisation, the Sinaloa drug cartel.
In 2019, Garca Luna, who was arrested in the state of Texas, pleaded not guilty. The 54-year-old may be sentenced to life in prison. According to a statement from the Department of Justice, Garca Luna will serve the mandatory minimum of twenty years in prison.
The verdict was reached following a four-week trial and three days of jury deliberation in Brooklyn, New York.
Prosecutors allege that the former head of the Mexican equivalent of the FBI accepted millions of dollars delivered in briefcases by members of Joaqun "El Chapo" Guzmán's Sinaloa drug cartel. After leaving office, Garca Luna moved to the United States, making him the highest-ranking Mexican official ever to be tried in the United States.
Jess Ramrez Cuevas, a spokesperson for current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, praised the decision and criticised former Mexican President Felipe Calderón on Twitter. Garca Luna was a subordinate of Mr. Calderón, who began a crackdown on drug cartels in 2006.
Mr. Ramirez Cuevas wrote that the former valet of Felipe Calderón had attained justice and the crimes that were committed against their people will never be forgotten.
In a statement to BBC News, Mr. Calderón defended his administration's approach to fighting organised crime and claimed that the verdict against Garca Luna was being used to attack me politically.
He stated that he has taken the most action against organised crime as president and fought to establish a genuine rule of law, without which liberty, justice, and progress are impossible.
Mr. Calderón added In forming and operating the government team, I exercised due diligence based on the information available at the time.
Ioan Grillo, a British author who lives in Mexico and is an expert on Mexico's criminal underworld, told sources that the conviction has significant implications for the US and Mexican governments' fight against corruption and organised crime.
According to him, this may encourage prosecutors to pursue additional cases. By convicting him without physical evidence and relying on the testimony of drug traffickers, they took a risk.
He added that the conviction of Garca Luna could discourage Mexican officials from engaging in open corruption. He stated that Mexican agents will consider their level of exposure to Americans.
According to reports, the former minister, who is widely regarded as the architect of Mexico's war on drugs, shared information with the Sinaloa drug cartel about its rivals and warned the organisation about law enforcement operations.
Garca Luna refuted the charges. In her closing argument, US prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy stated that the Sinaloa cartel could not have established a global cocaine empire without Garca Luna's assistance. She stated that the defendant was bribed for protection. They received value for their money.
Garca Luna's attorneys argued that the witnesses were testifying against him to protect themselves after committing heinous crimes.