Genaro García Luna is the former head of Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency (Agencia Federal de Investigación – AFI) and was the country’s public security minister from 2006 to 2012. While in the cabinet of President Felipe Calderón, García Luna was seen as a crucial architect of the militarization of Mexico’s response to organized crime.
However, the man charged with leading the country’s fight against drug traffickers was instead actively aiding them. On February 21, 2023, García Luna was convicted by a court in the Eastern District of New York on five counts relating to conspiring to traffic and distribute cocaine, continuing criminal enterprise, and taking millions in cash bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.
The so-called “super cop” was allegedly in cahoots with the Sinaloa Cartel, formerly led by Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo.” He was found guilty of having received bribes from the group in exchange for guaranteeing the safe passage of tons of cocaine from Mexico to the United States, as well as targeting their rivals to help strengthen the cartel’s position.
Additionally, he is accused of being part of a scheme that cheated the Mexican government out of $250 million.
He was arrested in December 2019, and, after more than three years of buildup, his trial began in January 2023. Despite denying all charges levels against him, he was convicted and could now be sentenced to life behind bars.
García Luna, who was born on July 10, 1968, in Mexico City, was reportedly familiar with those on both sides of the law from a young age. As a child, he told officers from the now-defunct Federal Security Directorate (Dirección Federal de Seguridad – DFS) about which local merchants were doing well so that the agents could extort them, according to Infobae. The report claims he took part in a robbery in Romero Rubio, a neighborhood of the Mexican capital, when he was 19 years old but avoided prison. Then, after failing the exam to join the federal police, he became an agent with the Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional – Cisen).
Although he was initially tasked with monitoring guerrilla groups, he later shifted his focus to tackling groups dedicated to kidnapping. His success in helping locate and rescue several high-profile businessmen reportedly allowed him to rise through the ranks.
He left Cisen to join the Federal Preventive Police and later the AFI, which he led from 2001 until 2005. In 2006, former president Felipe Calderón named García Luna as minister for public security, a position he held until 2012 when he left Mexico for Miami.
He was one of the driving forces behind Mexico’s militarization in its fight against drug trafficking. Yet during his time in these positions of power, he acted as a major ally for the Sinaloa Cartel, ensuring their cocaine shipments to the United States left Mexico without any problems, feeding the organization privileged information, and targeting the group’s rivals, prosecutors claim. His alleged reward: more than $50 million in bribes.
García Luna’s time as a free man in the United States came to an end on December 9, 2019, when officers arrested him in Dallas, Texas, shortly after a grand jury had charged him with conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine, as well as one count of making false statements. A superseding indictment was brought against him in July 2020.
In an exciting development, in October 2022, prosecutors sought to submit further evidence against him based on secretly recorded conversations he allegedly had with his cellmate, who turned out to be a New York District Attorney’s Office informant.
In one of the conversations, García Luna apparently admitted to trying to remove key witnesses in his trial, including Jesús Zambada García, “El Rey,” the brother of the Sinaloa Cartel’s current leader, Ismael Zambada García, alias” El Mayo.” Zambada was a crucial witness during El Chapo’s trial and testified that the Sinaloa Cartel had bribed García Luna for his cooperation.
He has also been accused of bribing or threatening journalists to avoid negative press during his tenure as public security minister.
His trial, which is being presided over by the same judge who condemned El Chapo to life in prison in July 2019, began on January 17, 2023.
García Luna has firmly denied all charges against him.
The charges for which García Luna was found guilty in the United States are based on the relationship he allegedly maintained with the Sinaloa Cartel.
He is accused of receiving tens of millions of dollars worth of bribes since 2001 in exchange for aiding the cartel in its quest for dominance of the Mexican drug trafficking industry.
According to the charges, he abused his position to ensure that cartel drug shipments left Mexico without any interference from the authorities. His charges posit that on six occasions between 2002 and 2008, he was involved in importing more than 50 metric tons of cocaine, with a street value of billions of dollars.
García Luna allegedly provided the Sinaloa Cartel with information about law enforcement operations against them, warned them in advance of planned arrests of its members, and assisted in the release of detained gang members.
Prosecutors also assert that thanks to these bribes, García Luna ensured that security operations targeted rival cartels instead of his paymasters, and that he put corrupt officials in positions of power in areas controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel.
García Luna avoided prosecution throughout his time in office. But just two weeks after his arrest in Dallas, authorities from Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera – UIF), having apparently only recently discovered and investigated his money laundering operation, filed complaints against him with Mexican anti-corruption prosecutors.
Beyond the cartel links, García Luna also faces accusations that he, along with another high-ranking Mexican government official, several business associates, a network of companies, and his wife, unlawfully swindled $250 million from the Mexican government using a “complicated unlawful government-contracting scheme.” The money was allegedly smuggled out of Mexico using an “extensive” network to “hide the stolen funds in numerous assets” located in the United States. In September 2021, the UIF announced its first civil lawsuit abroad in an attempt to recover the assets.
While his authority as Minister of Public Security did not extend beyond Mexico’s borders, his alleged involvement with the Sinaloa Cartel allowed them to move cocaine from his original home country to the United States.
His funds, however, have been on some genuinely globetrotting adventures, if the accusations against him are correct. He has been accused of using tax havens located around the world – including the United States, Barbados, and Hong Kong, of hiding the millions of dollars worth of bribes he allegedly took.
Allies and Enemies
During his time as the head of the Federal Investigation Agency and as public security minister, García Luna was allegedly a vital ally of the Sinaloa Cartel as it expanded its operations, if the prosecution’s charges prove to be correct. He also acted to weaken rival cartels and arrest their members, including the Zetas and the Beltrán Leyva Organization.
The United States viewed García Luna as an important ally for years, despite growing doubts about his corruption. His lawyers have sought to be allowed to submit photographic and written evidence of meetings where he rubbed shoulders with senior US officials.
García Luna’s future depends on the sentence he will receive in June 2023, after being found guilty in February 2023 on five charges relating to drug trafficking and accepting bribes from criminal associates. He could spend anywhere from ten years to life in prison.
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