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Mexico’s former top security official has been convicted in the US of taking millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel once run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Prosecutors told a New York court that, in return, Genaro Garcia Luna provided safe passage for cocaine shipments, protection from arrest and information on law enforcement operations against the cartel.
Garcia Luna, 54, had pleaded not guilty to taking part in a continuing criminal enterprise but faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life behind bars.
A jury in the federal US District Court in Brooklyn, New York, convicted Garcia Luna on five counts, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Garcia Luna is one of the most senior Mexican officials ever convicted of ties to a drug cartel. Between 2001 and 2005 he ran Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency and became public security minister in 2006.
Prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy told the jury that Garcia Luna had been vital to the cartel’s shipping of cocaine.
“These leaders paid the defendant bribes for protection – and they got what they paid for,” Ms Komatireddy said in her closing argument on 15 February referring to Guzman and two other top-ranking Sinaloa cartel figures.
And she added that Garcia Luna had “used his official government position to make millions of dollars for himself from the people he was supposed to prosecute.”
After leaving office Garcia luna moved to the US and was arrested in 2019 in Texas.
Earlier this month Mexican authorities accused Garcia Luna of embezzling as much as $745.9m from government technology contracts while in office.
Pablo Gómez, the head of Mexico’s anti-money laundering unit, said Garcia Luna and associates set up companies that got 30 dubious government contracts while he was Mexico’s top security official in 2006-2012 and for six years afterwards.
Garcia Luna “put together a network of corruption and money laundering to benefit himself and his close associates,” Mr Gómez said.
Guzman was sentenced to life in prison in 2019 following his conviction in Brooklyn on drug trafficking and murder conspiracy charges. He is being held at a high-security “Supermax” prison in Colorado.
Reuters contributed to this report.