(Bloomberg) -- With Genaro Garcia Luna’s promotion to Mexico’s top security chief in 2006, the Sinaloa drug cartel flourished, a jury in Brooklyn, New York, was told.
Garcia Luna, who was on the payroll of Sinaloa and its boss Joaquin, “El Chapo” Guzman, had oversight of the nation’s ports, airports and highways, allowing him to help the cartel stay a step ahead of the law by tipping it off to raids and helping to supply it with the latest technology, the gang’s former security chief testified Tuesday.
Sergio Villareal Barragan, a former Mexican federal police officer who went to work for the cartel, is the US government’s first witness against Garcia Luna. Garcia Luna is on trial, accused of helping the cartel and Guzman funnel millions of dollars worth of drugs into the US.
Garcia Luna was already on the gang’s payroll, collecting as much as $1.5 million a month, but after his promotion he and his associates were paid about $230 million more, Barragan told the jury — a reward for the additional help he was expected to provide the cartel. And it paid off for the drug traffickers.
“The cartel expanded greatly all over the republic and the drug business had increased greatly,” Barragan said. “The Sinaloa cartel had more control over the roads, all over the country, the airports and ports.”
Bigger drug hauls meant bigger profits, Barragan said.
Garcia Luna also provided counter-intelligence advice on how to monitor rival dealers and law enforcement, sending cartel members to an electronics expert in Mexico City, Barragan testified.
“The equipment was very cutting edge,” he said, adding that his boss, Arturo Beltran Leyva “carried these cards around, and if someone was wearing a mic on them they would vibrate.”
The electronics expert also provided the drug dealers with cell phone call inhibitors, surveillance cameras and other spyware.
Despite all that help, business didn’t always go smoothly for the cartel.
Barragan recounted an incident for the jury when customs officials seized a 20-ton cocaine shipment at a port on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Barragan said Beltran Leyva called the father of a custom’s official and the two came up with a solution: replace the seized bricks of cocaine with fakes made from sugar and flour, mixed with acetone and ether.
“We covered them in varnish so they’d look shiny and look like cocaine bricks,” Barragan said.
The switch allowed the customs officials to claim they made a drug seizure, while the cartel got away with the real stuff.
That pleased Beltran Leyva, Barragan said.
“He was very happy there hadn’t been too many losses and he was able to recover the 20 tons seized.”
The case is US v Garcia Luna 19-CR-576, US District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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