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Jurors told Mexico security czar was ‘partner in crime’ with cartel

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As Mexico's onetime security czar, Genaro Garcia Luna dealt constantly with US officials on counterdrug matters./AFP
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Feb 16, 2023 - 03:30 AM

NEW YORK — The prosecution wrapped up its case Wednesday against Mexico’s former security chief by telling jurors to “use your common sense” and believe the testimony of numerous accused drug traffickers who say he was “their partner in crime.”

Genaro Garcia Luna, who held high-ranking security positions in Mexico from 2001 until 2012, is accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel to allow safe passage of narcotics shipments.

Nine of the 26 witnesses who testified against Garcia Luna are accused drug traffickers extradited from Mexico and collaborating with US prosecutors in exchange for possible leniency in their own trials.

Some of the witnesses are clearly unsavory, prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy acknowledged to jurors during four hours of closing arguments.

“I’m not asking you to like them. They are criminals. They have done horrible things. But it takes one to know one,” she said.

The month-long trial has brought a spotlight on the alleged corruption of the highest ranking Mexican government figure ever to face US trial.

It also has opened a window on the vast resources of the Sinaloa Cartel under Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is now serving a life sentence in a US penitentiary.

The cartel ran a “multibillion dollar operation” that used cash bribes to gain favor in politics, public security, customs, ports and airports, she said.

Garcia Luna was vital to cartel smuggling because it was “impossible to run an operation… without the cooperation of the Mexican government,” she said.

The prosecutor urged the jurors not to discount the self-interested testimony of the accused drug traffickers, as defense attorneys have urged.

“Use your common sense and find him guilty,” Komatireddy said. “They told you that the defendant took millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.”

They told the jurors “he was their partner in crime,” she said.

The world’s biggest narcotics organization at one time, the Sinaloa Cartel moved multi-ton loads of cocaine each month from producing countries in the Andean region up through Mexico and on to streets in Europe and North America.

Garcia Luna served as chief of the Mexican equivalent of the FBI from 2001 until 2006, when he was elevated to become secretary of public security, essentially running the federal police force and most counterdrug operations.

If convicted on five charges, which range from cocaine trafficking conspiracy to making false statements, Garcia Luna faces between 10 years and a life term in US prison.

The witnesses against Garcia Luna included former several high-level cartel bosses, including Jesus “Rey” Zambada, Sergio Villarreal and Oscar “Lobo” Valencia.

They claimed to have paid millions of dollars to Garcia Luna collectively, and through Arturo Beltran Leyva, who ran his own drug cartel and served as a go-between with Garcia Luna, known as a “supercop,” in exchange for protection.

Garcia Luna, a 54-year-old mechanical engineer, declined to testify on his own behalf.

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