By MARK LORENZANA
Genaro García Luna, former Mexican secretary of public security, is the alleged victim of revenge by cartel members that he put behind bars in the United States over the course of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s drug war that lasted from 2006 to 2012.
This was the statement by defense lawyers on Monday, Jan. 23, in a Brooklyn, New York, federal court at the start of García Luna’s trial for purported drug trafficking.
The defense also said that their client was “an honest lawman who had helped the United States arrest top figures in the Sinaloa cartel.” Those same criminals, the lawyers said, in a New York Times report, had now returned to seek revenge against García Luna as government witnesses.
Prosecution lawyers, however, presented a testimony by a top member of the Sinaloa Cartel, Sergio Villarreal Barragán, alias “El Grande,” who said that in an alleged incident in the early 2000s, one of the cartel bosses arrived at a warehouse, accompanied by García Luna, who was purportedly given more than $14 million at that time — half the profits of a two-ton load of cocaine, a shipment from a rival organization that was intercepted by the Sinaloa Cartel in the southeasternmost Mexican state of Chiapas.
Prosecutors said that for more than 10 years, García Luna received millions of dollars in bribes to protect the same drug traffickers that he was supposed to be pursuing.
Villarreal Barragán also alleged that the break within the Sinaloa Cartel and the drug war between the faction of notorious cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera — incarcerated in the United States since early 2019 — and Ismael “El Mayo Zambada” and that of the Beltrán-Leyva Organization occurred after Guzmán Loera purportedly convinced Mexican law enforcement at that time to go after his old allies.
Meanwhile, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during his daily press conference on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 24, said that his government is looking to recover $700 million that García Luna allegedly accumulated due to corruption.
According to Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, the government of Mexico has filed a lawsuit in Florida, where García Luna lived after leaving Mexico.
In September 2021, Mexican daily newspaper Reforma reported that Mexico filed a civil lawsuit in the United States to recover properties allegedly acquired by García Luna, and seven other people, reportedly obtained through illegal contracts with the federal government.
The civil lawsuit in Florida was filed by Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) before the Court of the Eleventh Judicial District of Miami-Dade, against eight individuals and 39 legal entities, in order to recover the amount, which was allegedly hidden in bank accounts in Barbados and the United States.
César de Castro, García Luna’s lead lawyer, told the jury in his own opening statement that despite the U.S. government’s claims, prosecutors had no definitive evidence of his client’s guilt, and that the prosecution’s case would mostly rely on witnesses from within the cartel itself. The majority of those witnesses were people who García Luna had helped to arrest in Mexico and extradite to the United States, which was a good enough motive to testify against him.
“What better revenge,” De Castro said, “than to bury the man who led the war against the cartels?”
De Castro added that throughout García Luna’s extensive career, he had worked closely with a bevy of top U.S. officials in the State and Justice Departments, as well as in Congress and the White House.
The lead defense lawyer then proceeded to show the jury a collection of pictures of García Luna with Eric Holder, erstwhile U.S. attorney general, and posing with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as shaking hands with President Barack Obama.