The federal government has doubled down on an attempt to recover assets in the United States owned by Genaro García Luna, a former federal security minister accused of colluding with the Sinaloa Cartel.
García, security minister in the 2006-12 government led by former president Felipe Calderón and a high-ranking security official before that, was arrested in Dallas, Texas, in 2019 on charges he allowed the Sinaloa Cartel to operate in exchange for multimillion-dollar bribes. He is currently in a New York jail awaiting trial.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF), part of the federal Finance Ministry (SHCP), filed a civil claim in the United States in 2020 that sought to recover US $250 million in assets that García Luna alleged acquired in the U.S. with proceeds of criminal activities.
Now, the SHCP has reasserted the UIF’s authority to file the claim after that right was challenged by lawyers for the former security minister, according to a report by the news website Animal Político.
The SHCP submitted two official letters to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida endorsing the UIF’s 2020 claim, Animal Político said. The news website, which reviewed the letters, said that SHCP legal adviser Félix Arturo Medina Padilla and UIF chief Pablo Gómez “ratified the legality of the claim brought by the UIF.”
They argued that the UIF has the legal authority, even in foreign countries, to file lawsuits that allow the Mexican state to “recover resources that are intentionally hidden and out of the direct reach of Mexican authorities,” according to the Animal Político report.
One of the letters stressed that the UIF has “full legal authority” to represent the SHCP and Mexico in the attempt to recover García Luna’s allegedly ill-gotten assets in the United States.
As a result of the SHCP’s “ratification” of the existing civil claim, Judge Alan Fine allowed it to proceed, Animal Político reported adding that the case is in the evidence gathering stage.
While García Luna will go on trial in the United States, there is also a case against him in Mexico for money laundering, organized crime and illicit enrichment via drug trafficking and corruption. Declarations of assets filed by Genaro García Luna with the Ministry of Public Administration between 2002 and 2008 show that his wealth increased significantly in the period.
Although the federal Attorney General’s Office began investigating him in 2020, the charges the ex-official faces are yet to be tested in court.
García Luna’s U.S. trial was scheduled to begin in October but his legal team succeeded in having it postponed until early 2023.
The former security minister has maintained his innocence, but U.S. prosecutors allege he received tens of millions of dollars from the Sinaloa Cartel and used some of that money to buy favorable coverage from the media. He allegedly provided a range of information to the cartel, including details about government security operations against it, which helped it to operate with impunity.