HomeNewsColombia, Mexico Police Commanders Partnered with DEA and Drug Groups
NEWS

Colombia, Mexico Police Commanders Partnered with DEA and Drug Groups

COLOMBIA / 26 OCT 2021 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Two top police commanders in Colombia and Mexico have recently admitted to filtering sensitive information to drug traffickers while working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration -- another black eye for the agency amid growing calls for scrutiny of its actions in Latin America.

Former Mexican federal police officer Iván Reyes Arzate pleaded guilty October 19 to one cocaine trafficking conspiracy charge related to a $290,000 bribe he accepted in exchange for helping the operations of an alliance of drug trafficking groups known as El Seguimiento 39, the US Justice Department announced in a press release.

Reyes Arzate wasn’t just any police officer. In 2008, he became head of the federal police’s Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU), which was specially vetted and trained by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This made him the “highest-ranking officer and principal point of contact for information sharing between US and Mexican law enforcement personnel” assigned to that unit.

SEE ALSO: The DEA Academy: The Double Agent Factory

The former top cop was first charged in 2017 with leaking confidential information to Mexico’s Beltrán Leyva Organization, which led to one DEA informant being kidnapped and murdered, according to court documents. He was also bribed to arrest Edgar Valdez Villareal, alias “La Barbie,” aone-time Beltrán Leyva ally-turned-rival who was eventually extradited to the United States.

SIU commanders have also come under fire in Colombia. In early October, the Associated Press first reported on the previously sealed 2018 indictment, arrest and extradition of National Police Captain Juan Pablo Mosquera. He allegedly sold evidence and other key information to targets of US investigations while atop the DEA-vetted unit he oversaw in the city of Cali.

Specifically, Mosquera employed Juan Carlos Davila Bonilla, a known Colombian drug trafficker with ties to the Italian mafia, to pass classified information to at least one target of an ongoing DEA investigation, warning that he was “hot,” according to a factual proffer filed October 13 in support of his guilty plea.

Both Mosquera andReyes Arzate face a maximum 40 years in prison, and they will be sentenced in early January 2022.

InSight Crime Analysis

The admissions by two high-level police officials are damning evidence that DEA partners in Latin America must be vetted and tracked better, and raises further questions about what US officials knew and when.

Their actions fit a pattern of corruption within the agency’sSensitive Investigative Units that have led to kidnappings, murders and civilians being killed in the region. In August 2021, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General released a scathing report criticizing the DEA’s failures to enhance its oversight of the foreign law enforcement units it supports, especially in Latin America.

The report raised concerns that “even following significant, well-publicized incidents, the DEA has not effectively improved its process for reporting, tracking, and evaluating incidents.”

Among the incidents highlighted were three anti-drug missions carried out in 2012 by DEA-vetted units in Honduras in which four civilians were killed. The Inspector General report also cited the promotion of a police officer to command a “trusted police unit” in Haiti despite knowing that the official had failed a polygraph test, among others, according to the audit.

SEE ALSO: What the DEA Can Learn From the Honduras Debacle

Despite these and other failures, "the DEA has not strategically or programmatically evaluated these incidents involving foreign law enforcement units to identify lessons learned and enhance oversight,” the report added.

Indeed, in September of last year, a DEA agent in Colombia who worked alongside these vetted units pleaded guilty to “participating in a seven-year scheme to divert over $9 million in drug proceeds from undercover money laundering investigations.”

Following the Inspector General report, the DEA announced in August of this year a "comprehensive review of [its] international operations and foreign footprint." And in late-October, former DEA Administrator Jack Lawn and Boyd Johnson of the law firm WilmerHale were assigned to the review team.

In some cases, the alleged misconduct extended beyond the DEA's partner units. Prosecutors have tiedReyes Arzate's case, for example, to "the same criminal schemes, transactions and events" alleged in the bribery case involving Genaro García Luna, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón's secretary of public security between 2006 and 2012.

García Luna worked closely with the DEA in that role for years after the Mexican government launched the US-backed "war on drugs" in 2006. He is accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from Sinaloa Cartel members in exchange for protection, but he has denied those charges.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CHINA AND CRIME / 27 FEB 2021

A new investigation has identified Mexico as a major contributor to a global seahorse trafficking network centered around China but…

COCAINE / 15 JUN 2021

A recent report on drug trafficking and consumption in Europe highlights the acceleration of existing trends and the emergence of…

COVID AND CRIME / 30 MAR 2021

The seizure in Mexico of COVID-19 vaccine smuggled aboard a private plane linked to a Honduran textile magnate marks the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…