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Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

Ex-Mexico drug czar helped Sinaloa cartel's 'cocaine empire,' U.S. prosecutor says

Ex-Mexico drug czar helped Sinaloa cartel's 'cocaine empire,' U.S. prosecutor says

Admitted drug traffickers who testified against a former Mexican law enforcement official accused by the United States of taking millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa cartel have "incredible motives to lie," a defense lawyer said on Wednesday.
Genaro Garcia Luna was arrested in 2019 on charges of helping the cartel once run by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman ship drugs from Mexico to the United States. He is one of the highest-ranking Mexican officials accused of complicity with drug trafficking.

Garcia Luna has pleaded not guilty. In closing statements, his lawyer Cesar de Castro portrayed him as a hardworking family man who was in fact "vigilant about fighting crime." He urged jurors not to believe convicted cartel members who testified that they knew of bribes paid to Garcia Luna for protection.

De Castro said the cooperating witnesses were out for revenge on the man who arrested them and were seeking to lessen their sentences. He said the government presented no documentary evidence, such as text messages or recordings, that backed up the witnesses' accounts that Garcia Luna was bribed.

"They all have incredible motives to lie," de Castro said. "The government has no evidence to corroborate them on the issues that matter."

Garcia Luna led Mexico's Federal Investigation Agency from 2001 to 2005 and was public security minister from 2006 to 2012. He worked closely with U.S. counter-narcotics and intelligence agencies as part of former President Felipe Calderon's crackdown on cartels.

Earlier on Wednesday, prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy told jurors they should trust the witnesses' accounts because they had direct knowledge of the bribes, did not coordinate their accounts, and in many instances were rivals.

"I'm not asking you to like them," she said. "These people are criminals. But it takes one to know one."

Komatireddy said the Sinaloa cartel could not have shipped drugs to the United States without Garcia Luna's complicity.

"These leaders paid the defendant bribes for protection - and they got what they paid for," Komatireddy said, referring to Guzman and two other top-ranking Sinaloa cartel figures.

Guzman was sentenced to life in prison in 2019 following his conviction in Brooklyn on drug trafficking and murder conspiracy charges. He is held at a high-security "Supermax" prison in Colorado.

The jury was expected to begin deliberating on Thursday after U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan reads them instructions on the law.
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