New York (AFP) – A former commander of a Mexican federal police unit that worked hand-in-glove with US agents fighting drugs cartels has been indicted in New York on drug trafficking charges, US prosecutors said on Friday Jan. 24.
Ivan Reyes Arzate was indicted by a grand jury in Brooklyn on Thursday Jan. 23, with three counts of conspiracy to bring cocaine into the United States between September and November 2016.
The charges carry a minimum 10-year sentence if convicted, with a maximum penalty of life behind bars.
Reyes Arzate, who is being held in a New York prison, appeared before a federal judge on Friday and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The judge agreed with the prosecution and ordered him to remain in custody, citing the danger of him trying to flee the country for Mexico.
Reyes Arzate had been chief of the Sensitive Investigative Unit, or SIU, between 2008 and 2016, acting as a key pointman between the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Mexico’s security forces.
US prosecutors accused him of having “abused his position by providing assistance to Mexican drug cartels in exchange for at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.”
That assistance included “providing protection for … drug trafficking activities” of some of Mexico’s most notorious cartels, including the Beltran Leyva Organization, known for its extreme violence.
The SIU works alongside Mexico police forces and DEA agents to counter drugs trafficking, money laundering and other crimes linked to the powerful cartels. The unit’s members receive training at the DEA headquarters in the United States and are kept informed of US operations underway in Mexico.
But while he was working alongside the DEA, Reyes Arzate was also passing information to the Beltran Leyva Organization and another cartel known as El Seguimiento 39, as well as other criminal gangs, US prosecutors charged.
“With the defendant’s corrupt assistance, these cartels conducted their criminal activity in Mexico without significant interference from Mexican law enforcement, and imported multi-ton quantities of cocaine and other drugs into the United States,” prosecutor Richard Donaghue said.
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