Genaro García Luna, for more than a decade the face of law enforcement in Mexico, was found guilty Tuesday of helping the powerful Sinaloa cartel smuggle more than 50 tons of cocaine into the U.S. After hearing days of testimony that Luna, 54, accepted millions of dollars in bribes from the traffickers he was supposed to be pursuing, a jury in Brooklyn convicted him on all five counts, including engaging in a criminal enterprise and conspiring to distribute drugs, reports the Wall Street Journal. Luna is the most senior former Mexican official to be convicted in the U.S. on drug charges. He headed Mexico’s federal investigation agency and served as the minister for public security from 2006 to 2012 under then-president Felipe Calderón. Sentencing is scheduled for June 27. During the five-week trial, witnesses testified that Luna was a valuable employee of Mexican drug cartels, and told of widespread corruption and police collusion with criminal organizations. The defense said prosecutors had relied on testimony from witnesses who had been convicted of drug crimes in the U.S. and were seeking leniency or revenge against the former Mexican official. Luna didn’t take the stand. “No money, no photos, no video, no texts, no emails, no recordings, no documents, no credible, believable evidence that García Luna helped the cartel,” defense lawyer César de Castro told jurors.
De Castro said Luna will “continue to do everything he can to clear his good name.” Sergio Villarreal, a former drug boss known as “El Grande,” who served a 10-year sentence in the U.S. for drug trafficking, testified that for about eight years Luna was on the payroll of a Sinaloa cartel faction. He said the cartel gave Luna between $1 million and $1.5 million a month to help it smuggle cocaine into the U.S. without hindrance from Mexican law enforcement. Jesús “El Rey” Zambada, another former drug boss who was sentenced to 12 years after cooperating with the U.S. government, told the court that the cartel used speedboats, merchant ships, submarines, and even Boeing 747s to carry cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and then to the U.S., making profits of $3 billion a year. Zambada said he gave $3 million in a briefcase and a sports bag to a lawyer who handed the money to Luna at a private dining room at a fancy restaurant across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Zambada said the $3 million was the fee that Luna charged for an introduction. Villarreal said Luna received a payment between $14 million and $16 million as his take from a two-ton cocaine haul that the Sinaloa cartel grabbed from another criminal organization with the help of the Federal Investigation Agency. By the time Luna left office in 2012, the Sinaloa cartel had expanded its operations from four to more than 19 of Mexico’s 32 states. The prosecution underscored the challenges of cross-border drug enforcement, and exposed U.S. security failures., raising questions about its capacity to vet a high-ranking Mexican official at the center of antidrug operations for more than a decade, despite many warning signs.