Former Mexican Secretary of Public Security, Genaro García Luna, has been found guilty in a New York trial of drug trafficking and other charges. As head of the Public Security Secretariat between 2006 and 2012, he was found guilty of sending tons of cocaine from Mexico to the United States. The 54-year-old was also charged with participating in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute, possess, and import cocaine, and false documentation.
García Luna, who was arrested in Texas in December 2019 on corruption charges, is the highest-ranking former Mexican official to face the US justice system. He was accused of being a "criminal partner" of the Sinaloa Cartel, but his defense team claimed he was the "face of the war" against drug trafficking during Felipe Calderón's presidency.
During the trial, former prominent members of the Sinaloa Cartel, such as Jesus "El Rey" Zambada, Sergio Villarreal "El Grande", and Oscar "Lobo" Valencia, testified that they had paid millions of dollars to García Luna. Arturo Beltrán Leyva, who was also a witness, allegedly collected money from different factions to pay the former official for protection.
Who is Genaro García Luna?
Genaro García Luna joined the Center for Investigation and National Security (Cisen) as an agent in 1989 when he was only 21 years old and had just completed high school. During his time at Cisen, he established relationships with politicians and naval and military commanders. Within two decades, he rose to become the most influential official in the government of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006–2012).
García Luna was appointed head of the federal Public Security Secretariat (SSP) and was considered "the man" of Calderón Hinojosa's government. He was given the authority to build the largest police force in the country and acquire legal and illegal spying systems. These systems were used to pursue not only drug traffickers and kidnappers but also politicians and government opponents while protecting the operations of complicit criminal groups.
The government claimed a major victory when Edgar Valdez Villarreal, also known as "La Barbie," was arrested by the Federal Police on August 30, 2010. García Luna defended the decision to publicly show Valdez Villarreal to the media, even though the criminal appeared to be smiling during the presentation.
García Luna told legislators on September 21, 2010, that Valdez Villarreal was "one of the pioneers of high-impact violence" and had been "in charge of the campaign with banners, videos, and beheadings all over the country." The former official boasted that Valdez Villarreal's arrest was a "success" for the government. However, La Barbie later accused García Luna of protecting the operations of the Sinaloa cartel and the Beltrán Leyva organization.
In summary, García Luna rose from a young agent with a high school education to become the most powerful official in the government of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. He was given wide-ranging authority to combat crime and built the largest police force in the country. However, his legacy is controversial, as he is accused of protecting criminal organizations and pursuing government opponents using illegal spying systems.
From Cisen Agent to Head of Federal Police
According to Ministry of Public Function (SFP) records, García Luna was born in July 1968 and began working at Cisen until January 1999. While at Cisen, he became the coordinator of strategies for obtaining information on national security and worked alongside influential figures in the field, including Vice Admiral Wilfrido Robledo Madrid.
Later, García Luna was appointed as the general coordinator of intelligence for prevention at the newly-formed Federal Preventive Police (PFP) in 1999. The PFP was created with 500 members of the Military Police and replaced by the Federal Police, which was disbanded in 2019.
In 1994, García Luna finished his mechanical engineering studies at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) and obtained his professional license in 1995, as per Ministry of Public Education (SEP) records.
In 2000, when Vicente Fox of PAN was elected as President, it marked the end of García Luna's remarkable police career. He was appointed general coordinator of the Federal Judicial Police (PJF) on December 16, 2000. However, the PJF was abolished by a presidential decree in November 2001 and replaced with the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI), which was modeled after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
García Luna's property declarations show that he had attended six international seminars by the time he joined the AFI. Although the dates are not given, these seminars were on public security in Japan, Canada, Mexico, and the United States, as well as a seminar on dealing with kidnappings at the Public Security Academy of the State of Morelos.
Accusations of corruption and protection of criminal organizations
At the beginning of his tenure as head of the AFI, García Luna offered to eliminate corruption in the federal corporation. For this reason, he carried out massive dismissals of agents, hired young graduates of any degree, and imposed a process of exams of trust for admission, permanence, and promotions.
However, the head of the AFI never underwent these exams when he headed the agency. This is what the then-Attorney General's Office of the Republic (PGR) said in the official letter SJAI/DGAJ/02555/2011 in response to a question from La Jornada.
To form the command structure in the AFI and have people he trusted, García Luna appointed those who had been his colleagues in the Cisen: Domingo González Díaz, Francisco Garza Palacios, Luis Eduardo Cárdenas Palomino, Facundo Rosas Rosas, Ramón Eduardo Pequeño, Édgar Eusebio Millán, and Tomas Zerón de Lucio, among others.
Their collaborators were in charge of overseeing anti-drug operations at airports, arrests, and seizures on highways, combating kidnapping gangs, managing intelligence areas, and contracting weapons and equipment, among others. In more than a few cases, they would find out later that these actions didn't work out well.
One of the first cases in which acts of corruption involving members of Genaro García Luna's first circle were reported was that of Domingo González Díaz, who in 2004 became a fugitive from justice after being accused of receiving more than a million and a half dollars for protecting the Beltrán Leyva brothers' cartel, particularly to Arturo Beltrán Leyva, El Barbas.
Domingo González was in charge of the AFI's Special Operations Command Center at the time, and according to investigations by the then-Attorney General's Office (PGR), he went to Mexico City with the Beltrán Leyva leader and kept him from being arrested.
By 2003, some of the men close to García Luna were already accused of covering up for kidnapping gangs and also of supporting Ismael El Mayo Zambada and his brother Jesús with cocaine trafficking operations through Mexico City's International Airport.
From that circle, Cárdenas Palomino (who is also charged with illegal deprivation of liberty and torture), Garza Palacios, and Eduardo Pequeño are now under investigation for allegedly having committed operations with resources of illicit origin related to bribes from criminal groups. Tomás Zerón de Lucio, in turn, faces charges of torture and forced disappearance for the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students and is a fugitive in Israel.
Financial Triangulation Network of Sinaloa Cartel
Newly discovered documents have uncovered links between former Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and a financial and resource triangulation network headed by brothers Juan José and Érick Arellano Hernández. The network, which is being targeted by Mexican authorities, involved the movement of millions of pesos and dollars to conceal resources that were likely used for corrupt acts during Calderón's presidency from 2006 to 2012. A diagram made in 2019 revealed the web of people and front companies involved in this network, many of whom sent resources to tax havens like Barbados, Curacao, Latvia, Panama, Hong Kong, and Cyprus.
The Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) traced the funds to at least five companies and six individuals. Operadora Grupo Gas Mart, an accounting, tax, financial, and legal consultancy belonging to Grupo Arhe, stood out among the companies. It deposited a total of 5.8 million pesos into Glac Security Consulting, a security consultancy created by former security secretary Genaro García Luna.
The 22 individuals involved in the network included García Luna's sister Esperanza, his wife Linda Cristina Pereyra, security and espionage technology businessman Samuel Weinberg and his son Jonathan Alexis Weinberg. The name of Juan José Arellano Hernández also stood out, as he was found to have links with Operadora Grupo Gas Mart and was accused by the FIU of triangulating resources that likely originated from bribes.
Juan José Arellano Hernández was also confirmed to have links to his family's company, which was previously linked to the Sinaloa Cartel. The company, whose main shareholder is his mother María Hernández Ramos, provided accounting and consulting services and was referred to as "Company 6" in a study shared with the Financial Action Task Force. Sinaloa is known for being the state where the main leaders of the drug cartels originate.
UIF Files Complaint Against Operadora Grupo Gas Mart
On December 24, 2019, the UIF filed a complaint with the FGR against Operadora Grupo Gas Mart for sending "millionaire amounts of resources in favor of Glac Security Consulting Technology Risk Management," owned by García Luna, without any business relationship. A document obtained by Ríodoce and Quinto Elemento Lab concluded that Operadora was involved in a "triangulation scheme" planned by García Luna to receive resources from bribes given by organized crime and money obtained from the diversion of funds during the Peña Nieto administration.
Operadora Grupo Gas Mart was also linked to Nunvav Inc., a Panamanian company that transacted with two companies owned by the Weinberg family from 2013 to 2015, transferring more than 44 million pesos to Operadora Grupo Gas Mart in 2013, 2016, and 2017. The blocking agreement revealed that Nunvav Inc. paid for García Luna's lifestyle in Miami and acquired prepaid cards for 532 million pesos.
During the Peña Nieto administration, the Ministry of the Interior sent 2,915 million pesos and 77 million 464 thousand dollars to Nunvav's existing accounts in tax havens without apparent justification. On December 9, 2019, the federal agency blocked the accounts of Nunvav Inc., Glac Security Consulting SC, ICIT Holding SA, ICIT Private Security Mexico SA, and Operadora Grupo Gas Mart after García Luna's arrest.
He is accused of drug trafficking and being a member of a criminal organization, facing a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. Charges for making false statements were also added.