Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Genaro Garcia Luna Accused of Bribing News Outlet El Universal

 "Socalj" for Borderland Beat

Prosecutors have sought to present evidence and testimonies about alleged bribery to Mexican media, such as the newspaper El Universal owned by Ealy Ortiz.

According to the testimony of Héctor Villarreal Hernández, former Secretary of Finance for the State of Coahuila, Genaro García Luna allegedly arranged with Francisco Ealy Ortiz, owner of the newspaper El Universal so that, in exchange for a monthly payment of 25 million pesos, the news outlet would help him with positive coverage to counter news reports linking him to drug cartels and his alleged kidnapping in 2008.

An advertising invoice retained by Villarreal Hernandez and turned over following his arrest in 2014 recorded a payment listed as being for payment is for a "Tourism Rescue Campaign."

"Governor Moreira, attorney (sic) García Luna, and I met," the witness told prosecutor Reid.

"(García Luna) told former Governor Humberto Moreira that he needed his support, he asked him if he knew directly the people from the newspaper El Universal, to which the governor answered yes if he needed anything, he would just let him know,” stated the former Coahuila finance secretary. “García Luna told him that there were certain rumors in the press that he had been kidnapped (by Arturo Beltrán Leyva on October 19, 2008) and related him to drug trafficking characters.”

What did Garcia Luna ask of the former PRI governor? Reid questioned.

If there was a way for him to approach El Universal so that it would be known that all the rumors were not true, how could he approach El Universal?... The governor replied that without any problem he would speak with Francisco Ealy Ortiz, the owner,” Villarreal Hernández continued.

The prosecution presented as evidence a photograph of said event in which Moreira is seen hugging Ealy Ortiz in the company of other people. 

Villarreal Hernández replied that the Governor and the newspaper owner were "compadres" and that he was present at various meetings in Mexico City and in Saltillo, the Coahuila capital where the owner of El Universal has a house. Testimony was also provided that allege Luna offered to sell the infamous spy software Pegasus to Governor Moreira during a tour of the Public Security "Bunker."

Luna's defense attorney had sought to stop testimony regarding testimony relating to the newspaper. "Governor Moreira asked me to make a first payment, he asked me to travel to Mexico City to close a payment agreement in cash, to agree with Sergio Montaño who worked with García Luna and we went directly to the offices of El Universal to close the deal," testified Villarreal Hernández.

Villarreal voluntarily turned himself into authorities in El Paso, Texas, after being released on bail in Mexico in 2012. The United States accuses him of money laundering. If found guilty, he would be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined $66 million. The ruling is scheduled for April 2023. Villarreal, who could be deported to Mexico, is seeking asylum in the US.

Responses from El Universal & AMLO

In an opinion article titled, "Unsubstantiated Accusations Against EL UNIVERSAL: They are Not Going to Intimidate" the newspaper El Universal responded to the accusations by United States prosecutors that the media outlet received bribes from one or several drug traffickers when Genaro García Luna was Secretary of Federal Public Security, during the six-year term of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.

"Yesterday, in an official letter the defense of the former Secretary of Public Security, Genaro García Luna, asked the judge in the case to prohibit the testimony of a witness collaborating with the Department of Justice who would speak about alleged bribes by of the former official to the media, including El Universal, a document that hours later was withdrawn. In this regard, this publishing house considers that the testimonies are only serious and credible when they are accompanied by supporting evidence. 

For now, what there is documentary evidence of is that El Gran Diario de México always maintained balanced and critical coverage of the administration of García Luna. 

One of them is that, in 2011, El Universal won the National Journalism Award in the news category, for a work that denounced the million-dollar expense made by the Secretary of Public Security, then under the command of García Luna, to produce a television series in order to promote the image of the Federal Police. This is a test."

"It makes no sense to talk about payments "to clean up the image" when the evidence indicates that EL UNIVERSAL maintained a critical stance towards the public performance of the official and the agency he headed," stated El Universal as part of their response. They cited multiple news articles that were critical of Luna including against statements made by Luna after the arrest of "La Barbie".

"It came out that the lawyers do not want the version of a witness (Villarreal Hernández) to be made known who talks about what García Luna or the Secretary of Security, who managed resources, handed over to a newspaper in Mexico, also the same lawyers say 'that no', I say as a Mexican, yes, of course, everything," President Andre Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

Several Senators expressed support for El Universal regarding the accusations of bribery and corruption. Ricardo Monreal affirmed that for more than a century, the Gran Diario de México has reported truthfully and objectively, in addition to the fact that it has always been conducted ethically and honestly.

Garcia Luna Could Testify in His Defense

An appeal by García Luna's lawyers reveals the possibility that the former Mexican official will testify in his defense next week. "Letter of motion to exclude certain cross-examination by Genaro García Luna," reads the description of the document.

Iván Carrera, the DEA agent who oversaw the arrest of Genaro García Luna in Dallas, Texas, testified that the recorder did not work during the session where Luna was asked about his ties to Arturo Beltrán Leyva. Luna was also asked about his subordinate Ivan Reyes Arzate, and Ivan stated that Garcia Luna denied knowing him as well.

Cartel Accountant Israel Ávila

Continuing with the trial against Genaro García Luna is the testimony of Israel Ávila, the alleged accountant for Guerrero drug trafficker Mario Pineda Villa, alias “MP” or “Gordo Malo”. In his testimony, Israel Ávila stated that as an accountant for the cartel, he recorded payments totaling more than $10 million. These payments would have been made as payments for protection and information.

Ávila specified that the payments were not made directly to García Luna, but were made through other drug traffickers such as: "El Barbas", Jesús Reynaldo Zambada García "El Rey Zambada ”, Sergio Villarreal Barragán “El Grande”, and Édgar Valdez Villarreal “La Barbie”. "I had to go with Mario Pineda Villa to Mexico City to give Jesús "Rey" Zambada García $5 million in cash that was for Genaro García Luna," testified the accountant. 

Luna was identified by the nicknames "Metralleta" and "Tartamudo" or the Machine Gun and the Stutterer in ledgers. "The accountant that the Beltrán Leyva had - when Ávila took over the finances - told me that in the registry Metralleta and Tartamudo were in reference to García Luna," the protected witness stressed. Later, witnesses testified to Luna's stuttering problem to strengthen evidence of those nicknames.

In charge of the accounting for the Beltrán Leyva faction in 2006, Ávila added that other payments were made to García Luna that ranged from $3 million, $1 million, and $1.8 million and that he recorded in the payroll corresponding to bribery of public officials.

"I once personally gave $500,000 in cash to the Secretary of Public Security for the state of Morelos, (Luis Ángel) Cabeza de Vaca," Ávila noted in reference to payments by the Beltrán Leyva brothers for state-level officials. 

His relationship with the Beltrán Leyva brothers and the Sinaloa Cartel began in 2005, when, without knowing that they were drug traffickers, he helped buy and rent houses, apartments, and warehouses in Morelos. He thought they were from the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) of which Luna was in charge, because they wore uniforms and had vehicles with that insignia, and they were armed. Recruited by Mario Pineda Villa, “El MP”, and his brother Alberto, “El Borrado”, Ávila began working for Arturo Beltrán Leyva and his brothers Alfredo and Héctor in more than just an accounting capacity. Avila was captured in 2012 by US immigration authorities in Texas.

He stated that he participated in acts of torture, kidnapping, and violence and was even a witness to more than 20 murders committed by the Beltrán Leyva Organization. 

"They sent Francisco Camacho, my compadre, in charge of the security of the Pineda Villa brothers, to pick up García Luna on a road in Cuernavaca... he did it and they even gave him a house as a gift for having done that," said the accountant.

“In 2008 (October) 'El Grande' carried out an operation in Mexico City with some government officials and drug traffickers when Mr. 'Rey' Zambada was arrested… I was with Mario Pineda and on the radio, we heard that the government wanted to change 'Rey' Zambada another to release him. Mario Pineda asked me to speak to a journalist who worked for the Beltrán Leyva family and to notify him of the arrest and notify other journalists. I spoke to the journalist and they could no longer change it," Ávila explained. Prosecutor Reid did not disclose the identity of the journalist who allegedly worked for the Beltrán Leyva during the war between the factions of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Testimony of DEA Agent Miguel Madrigal declared that since 2010, the DEA had knowledge of the alleged links between García Luna and the Sinaloa Cartel.

In his testimony, the DEA agent stated that Sergio Villarreal Barragán, "El Grande" sought him out before his arrest to give him information about García Luna's ties to organized crime. Miguel Madrigal testified that drug traffickers and officials met in the Champs Élysées restaurant across from the US Embassy in Mexico on Paseo de la Reforma to receive bribes.

Later, Prosecutors provided a list of photos, mainly found on the seized laptop owned by Luna, that show evidence of his vast wealth over the years. His defense has sought to limit these photos. They include photos of his Ford Mustang and Land Rover, a home in Mexico City, his collection of guns, and Harley Davidson motorcycles, which corroborate statements that he was given one as a gift from the BLO. The $700,000 yacht that he has access to and a photo of Luna driving a Lamborghini.

Significant Witness

Based on the amount of evidence and witness list provided during pre-trial hearings; Luna's defense attorney Cesar de Castro believed the trial would last several months. However, Judge Cogan has encouraged prosecutors to keep the trial going as expeditiously as possible. So far, the Prosecutor's Office has called 25 people to testify against García Luna. Although at first there was talk of a list of 70 witnesses.

They have announced in a court filing that the prosecution plans to wrap up their case next week, leaving defense witnesses and closing arguments still to go. Prosecutor Breon Peace requested that the court adjourn early after the 4 witnesses were heard on February 8, 2023, in order to prepare for the next 'significant' witness that could have logistical issues. 

Likely, the next witness is to be highly protected due to alleged death threats that Luna made last year against potential witnesses and journalists. And could be a prisoner themselves which involves more resources than other witnesses.

It makes sense to have the most impactful witnesses towards the latter part of the trial to stay fresh in the minds of jurors. Having started off the trial against Luna for drug trafficking and accepting bribes, with insightful testimony from Sergio "El Grande" Villarreal. The list of potential witnesses that have not been heard yet is dwindling but does include Jesus "El Rey" Zambada who had testified against "El Chapo."

Another witness who had previously claimed that Luna received bribes is Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez-Villarreal. "La Barbie" was recently removed from BOP Prison Custody and, as first discovered by Borderland Beat, was listed as such on their BOP Inmate Locator. The timing and history of Villarreal and Luna bring about a likely conclusion that he will testify.

Sources ProcesoRiodoceLa Silla RotaProceso, Keegan HamiltonMilenio, El Universal, El Universal, El Universal


  1. Please BB, keep providing updates on Garcia Luna trial... reads like a novela

    1. BB also please keep the complimentary popcorn and hotdogs coming, some of these articles are interesting.


Comments are moderated, refer to policy for more information.
Envía fotos, vídeos, notas, enlaces o información
Todo 100% Anónimo;