“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

The trial of Garcia Luna has gone to jury deliberations nearly a month ahead of schedule. The final days of the prosecution’s case included controversial accusations by the defense team and testimony from a sole witness for the defense, Luna’s wife.

Questions of CDS Contributing $7 Million to AMLO’s First Presidential Campaign

Defense Attorney Cesar De Castro asked Zambada García if he remembered that in July 2013 he declared before US prosecutors that he paid $7 million to AMLO’s 2006 presidential campaign. López Obrador is the current President of Mexico. Allegedly the money was sent through Gabriel Regino García, Undersecretary of Public Security of the then-Federal District, when AMLO was in charge of the capital’s government from 2000-2005.
Gabriel Regino was the Undersecretary of Public Security for Mexico City, and the head of that agency was Marcelo Ebard with AMLO leading the government there at the time.

In November 2018, during the trial against “El Chapo” Guzman, Gabriel Regino “categorically” denied the accusations that “El Rey” Zambada, made against him for accepting bribes in exchange for protection in Mexico City.

Zambada said that the money was for a campaign, but did not specify for whom or which candidate. He then denied that it was meant for AMLO. “I couldn’t have said that because it’s not true,” said Ismael’s brother, El Mayo Zambada, leader of the Sinaloa cartel. De Castro was preparing to show him the transcript of his 2013 statement. The prosecutors yelled out their objection and Judge Cogan called the two sides to his bench. After some discussion, the line of questioning was dropped by De Castro. 
Prosecutors: “I have some concerns that this witness — we’re talking about a sitting president, and this witness has family in Mexico. It could create a sideshow and potential—“

Judge: “if indeed, he said something like that. I see the relevance to his credibility. However, he says he didn’t say it. That’s the end of the story.”

Documents confirm that César de Castro acknowledges that he cited notes about “El Rey” Zambada that he “did not know” who they were from, but they were not from “El Rey” about Fox and AMLO.
AMLO responded to him being brought up during the trial that possibly his previous presidential campaign was partially financed by the Sinaloa Cartel. “I am making a query because I am seeing if it is possible for me to file a complaint for moral damages against García Luna’s lawyer and those who are responsible, (the complaint would be filed) in the United States,” he said. He added that if the complaint is viable and payment for non-material damage is obtained, it will be delivered to relatives of victims “of the war that Calderón unleashed.”

“The only thing that I have in mind, apart from the fact that I do not accept that my honesty is questioned because it is what I consider most important in my life, is that it is in the middle that I am President of Mexico. You cannot govern a country without moral authority. And third, the President of Mexico cannot be the one who becomes a hostage to foreign governments or foreign lawyers or personalities,” López Obrador said.

“Yesterday is a clear sign, wanting to involve me, this false, slanderous, crooked lawyer, Zambada turned out to be more right. The lawyer was wrong,” the President declared.

The US government’s structure of corrupt officials under Luna…dubbed a cartel of its own.
After abandoning questions regarding AMLO, the defense attorney then brought up inconsistencies in “El Rey’s” testimony over the last decade. In 2014, Zambada declared that the second payment to García Luna was $3 or $5 million, but during this trial on February 13, El Mayo’s brother said it was only $2 million. However, in 2017, Zambada spoke of $1 million and then again said that there was $5 million. During Luna’s trial, he testified that he was likely confused about what exactly prosecutors were asking during those times. “Possibly I was confused with the amounts because it gave me a lot of pressure to talk about this man (García Luna). It scared me a lot, one has a family.” De Castro asked Zambada if he had any proof or evidence that he gave that money to García Luna, “no,” was his response. Prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy looked to clarify that Zambada had been consistent in paying bribes to García Luna and his closest collaborator, Luis Cárdenas Palomino.

“El Rey’s” Fake Arrest Operation

The younger brother of “El Mayo” said that his arrest started as an operation by Beltrán Leyva hitmen dressed in federal police uniforms.
Sergio Villarreal Barragán “El Grande” testified in court that it was the Beltrán Leyva brothers who handed over El Mayo’s brother. They were angry with other leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel for the arrest of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, in January 2008. And looked to settle the score with “El Mayo’s” brother by “arresting” him and turning him over to authorities. According to “El Grande”, they used hitmen, disguised as police officers of the then Federal Investigation Agency (AFI), then under the leadership of Garcia Luna.
However, “El Rey” Zambada testified that if it were not for elements of the Secretary of Security of the then Federal District who “rescued” him, he would have been killed. The “arrest” operation was actually an attempt to kill him. He said those who saved him were “his friends.” “I spoke to the local Police, they were my friends, the commander of the local Police rescued me.”
He was taken into custody and extradited to the United States in 2012. Since then, he became a cooperating witness and testified in several trials including that of “El Chapo”. He was sentenced to time served in March 2020 and he and his family are currently in witness protection.

The arrest of El Rey occurred after the BLO kidnapping of Garcia Luna arranged by Sergio “El Grande” Villarreal who testified at the start of Luna’s trial. Another witness, Milenio Cartel figure Oscar “El Lobo” Nava-Valencia was also kidnapped by Arturo Beltran Leyva and testified that he agreed to work with BLO when being let go, but became closer to the Chapo/Mayo faction afterward due to the event.

“El Rey’s” son Jesus Zambada Reyes was also arrested at the same time and later began cooperating with the PGR in Mexico. He was then found dead while in a police safe house due to a suspected suicide a year later.

Luna’s Wife Testifies in His Defense

The defense called its first and only witness, Linda Cristina Pereyra, the wife of García Luna. She documented the purchase, sale, and construction of various family properties, and the origin of vehicles, including two classic Ford Mustangs and two Harley Davidson motorcycles. And also their small business ventures from the early 1990s until 2012 when the family moved to Miami, Florida.

She commented that her family’s life changed dramatically in 2001 when her husband was appointed director of AFI and they were accompanied by up to 20 bodyguards in armored vehicles. She assured that during that time they provided asset declarations publicly until, after they and their children were being harassed, decided to make it private.

She explained the history of their finances starting from purchasing older cars, fixing them up, and selling them to buying small apartments to large properties and doing the same. The couple also opened several small businesses during their time including a stationary store, a party supply store, and getting a loan to open a restaurant. Eventually, Luna started his security consulting business after leaving his position in Mexico.
The Harley Davidson motorcycles listed on government paperwork she stated were purchased in 2007 and 2009. Long after claims by “El Grande” that the BLO gifted Luna one when the relationship between the accused official and the Sinaloa Cartel.
When her husband left the Mexican government in 2012, they decided to leave Mexico to offer their children greater freedom and “a more normal life” without so much public visibility and security concerns. Their “normal life” in Miami included access to a yacht and 30 properties associated with their marriage, according to the civil lawsuit that the Mexican government filed in Florida to recoup illegal funds from contracts made by Luna. This information however is not being shown in court as Luna’s post-2012 wealth is not allowed to be included during the trial.

Closing Arguments

Defender Cesar De Castro

De Castro noted for the jury that the prosecution called 27 witnesses to testify during the trial. Of those, only 7 claimed to have met García Luna, and only 3 claimed to have made bribe payments. “They’re asking you to convict a man solely on the words of some of the most notorious and ruthless criminals in the history of the world.” He also called the cooperators: “Killers, kidnappers, torturers, and fraudsters.”

De Castro noted the “ridiculous amounts” of bribes García Luna has been accused of taking during the trial. Added up, all the payments totaled at least $274.3 million. He then pointed out that GGL was not living lavishly in Mexico, govt hasn’t explained where all the cash went.

De Castro called Garcia Luna “the US’ most trusted partner in all things related to the Merida Initiative. There’s no chance Mr. Obama would meet with Mr. García Luna if the DEA, CIA, State Dept, or any other agency had intel Mr. Garcia Luna was corrupt.”

Prosecutor Erin Reid

“The evidence has shown this is a man of two faces. It IS shocking at the same time he was meeting with President Obama and Ambassador Wayne, at the same time he was working hand in hand with the Sinaloa Cartel.”

“You don’t need a wiretap or a video or a phone call. You had the best evidence—the people who paid him. We don’t have to prove where the money is… money can be concealed.” Her rebuttal about the cooperators was, “we could pick a bunch of school teachers to testify, but school teachers don’t run international drug cartels.”

Judge Brian Cogan announced that the jury will begin their deliberations without a deadline on whether the highest-ranking former Mexican official ever tried in the United States is guilty or innocent of accepting multi-million dollar bribes in a Sinaloa cartel drug trafficking conspiracy and lying to US immigration authorities.