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Countdown Begins to Trial of Mexico's Former Security Minister

ELITES AND CRIME / 3 NOV 2022 BY LUISA MARIA ACOSTA EN

The trial of Genaro García Luna, Mexico's public security minister during the presidency of Felipe Calderón, is fast approaching. Considered to be the architect of Mexico's controversial war on drugs, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment in a case that begins in January 2023.

García Luna has been awaiting trial since his arrest in Texas by United States authorities on December 9, 2019. New York prosecutors accused him of receiving multimillion-dollar bribes to allow the Sinaloa Cartel to operate with impunity in Mexico while he was public security minister. 

In addition, García Luna was implicated in a money laundering scheme, in which he is alleged to have moved $50 million in bribe money through international tax havens.

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile

García Luna has pleaded not guilty to three drug trafficking charges and one of perjury.

Below, InSight Crime looks at some of the most recent developments in García Luna's case, likely to be one of the most wide-reaching of 2023.

Evidence Continues to Mount

On October 26, prosecutors unveiled new evidence against García Luna, who was once one of the US' closest allies in Mexico. Among the evidence are records relating to the shipment of narcotics into the US, proof of payment by García Luna, and photos of the accused with other people under investigation. These add to the evidence presented on December 18, 2019 against him.

The evidence was presented shortly after Ruslan Mirvis, García Luna's cellmate, recorded more than 500 hours of conversations in which García Luna allegedly incriminated himself in the crimes. Mirvis turned out to be an informant for the New York District Attorney's Office. 

In one conversation, García Luna allegedly admitted attempting to get rid of key witnesses in his trial, including Jesus Zambada, alias ”El Rey,” brother of Ismael Zambada, alias ”El Mayo,” the current leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. 

Whether that evidence will be admitted is uncertain. García Luna's defense team is arguing that the recordings are "mostly unintelligible" and that most of the incriminating statements are "made by the informant and not by García Luna."

Creation of a Special Police Unit 

In 2007, García Luna allegedly created a dedicated group in the Baja California State Police tasked with wiping the Arellano Félix Organization (AFO) "off the map," according to an interview with an officer who once belonged to said group with Mexican magazine Proceso. The agency said that the intention was to allow the Sinaloa Cartel, led at the time by Joaquín Guzmán, alias “El Chapo,” to take over the cities of Tijuana and Mexicali. 

No additional testimonies have confirmed the agent's account so far. In addition, García Luna's role in directing operations against the AFO, also known as the Tijuana Cartel, is unclear.

A Partially Sequestered Jury

Given the high-profile nature and implications of the case, prosecutors requested an anonymous and partially sequestered jury in order to protect its impartiality.

"García Luna has resources to interfere in judicial proceedings," the request stated.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Crime

García Luna's defense opposed this request on the grounds that a sequestered jury would erode his presumption of innocence, according to the 25-page document filed with the New York court.

The judge presiding over the case agreed with the prosecution. The jury is set to be anonymous and isolated from the general public. 

The trial against García Luna may set a precedent. If he is convicted, it will expose deep-seated corruption at the heart of the Mexican state and outline the severity with which the US -- which has backed the war against drugs in Mexico -- is willing to deal with corrupt actors. 

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