Genaro García LunaGetty Images

The man who once led the fight against the drug cartels in Mexico will go on trial this week in New York, accused of taking bribes in return for allowing drug shipments safe passage.

Prosecutors say Genaro García Luna took millions of dollars from Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa drug cartel, to allow the group to operate in Mexico.

The former security chief, arrested in 2019 in the US, has pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection begins on Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.

Prosecutors allege the former head of the Mexican equivalent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations accepted millions of dollars stuffed in briefcases and delivered by cartel members.

They say Mr García Luna was involved in “the importation and the distribution of massive quantities of dangerous drugs” into the US.

The ex-minister – who is considered the architect of Mexico’s war on drugs – is also accused of sharing information with the Sinaloa drug cartel about its rivals and warning it about law enforcement operations.

“As alleged, for nearly two decades, García Luna betrayed those he was sworn to protect,” Seth DuCharme, the acting US Attorney in Brooklyn, said when the charges were announced.

Mr García Luna, 54, served as public security chief during the administration of President Felipe Calderon between 2006 and 2012. Before that, he led the Federal Investigation Agency from 2001 to 2006.

He was not just an important figure in Mr Calderon’s administration – he was Mexico’s secretary of public security, the face of the country’s federal police force, according to the BBC’s Mexico correspondent Will Grant.

Mr Calderon, with US backing, deployed troops against the cartels for the first time. Tens of thousands died in Mexico in drug-related violence during his “war on drugs”.

Allegations about Mr García Luna’s involvement with the Sinaloa cartel came to light during the trial for Guzmán, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years in 2019.

Former cartel member Jesus “Rey” Zambada testified during the trial that he had delivered millions of dollars in payments to Mr García Luna.

Mr García Luna called the testimony “lies, defamation and perjury”.

He faces anywhere from 10 years to life in prison if found guilty. The trial is expected to last several weeks.

Mr García Luna is not the only high-profile Mexican official to be arrested for ties to drug trafficking. General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo was a top anti-narcotics officer in 1996 before he was arrested for aiding a powerful drug cartel.

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