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US charges former Mexican defence minister with drug trafficking

General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico's former defence minister, pictured in September 2018.
General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico's former defence minister, pictured in September 2018. © Daniel Becerril, REUTERS
Text by: NEWS WIRES
2 min

Former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos has been charged with drug trafficking and laundering money while he was in the government, documents released by federal prosecutors in New York Friday said.

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Prosecutors accuse Cienfuegos, a mainstay in Enrique Pena Nieto's 2012-2018 administration, of conspiring to produce and distribute "thousands of kilograms" of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana in the US between December 2015 and February 2017. 

He "abused" his position "to help the H-2 Cartel, an extremely violent Mexican drug trafficking organization," according to the documents.

"In exchange for bribe payments, he permitted the H-2 Cartel -- a cartel that routinely engaged in wholesale violence, including torture and murder -- to operate with impunity in Mexico," the indictment said.

The prosecution said the evidence against the retired general nicknamed "The Godfather" included thousands of Blackberry messages between Cienfuegos and cartel members intercepted by the authorities. 

The indictment was filed by the New York City District Attorney's Office on August 14, 2019, but was only released Friday.

The charges are punishable in the United States with a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment. 

Cienfuegos will answer three counts of drug trafficking and one of money laundering in a Los Angeles court later Friday.

(AFP)

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