The United States Justice Department is dropping a drug trafficking and money laundering case against former Mexican Secretary of National Defense Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Attorney General William Barr said yesterday.
The DOJ said Cienfuegos — who was initially charged in Brooklyn federal court — may now be probed by Mexican authorities.
“The U.S. Department of Justice said it has made available evidence to mexican authorities in order to be able to continue with the investigation and pledged their continued cooperation within that framework to support the investigation,” Barr said in a joint statement with Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero.
“As the decision today reflects, we are stronger when we work together and respect the sovereignty of our nations and their institutions,” the statement read.
The decision comes just weeks after the 72 years old, Cienfuegos, was arrested last month in Los Angeles for allegedly taking bribes to help drug cartels avoid prosecution.
He reported directly to the president — all while he was secretly communicating with the cartel’s most senior leaders, prosecutors had alleged.
In a motion to dismiss the charges that was unsealed Tuesday evening, Acting US Attorney Seth DuCharme wrote the Justice Department is asking the charges be dropped because of “important foreign policy considerations” between the US and Mexico.
The motion cites the Justice manuel, which explains prosecutors could seek to dismiss a case for reasons of national security of foreign policy.
“Situations may arise where substantial reasons of national security, foreign policy or the like may require the Department to abandon an investigation, forego litigation, or seek dismissal of a case,” the motion states.
Reports reviewed that in 2014, Cienfuegos endured a major scandal after soldiers under his command killed 22 suspects at a grain warehouse — at least eight of whom were executed after they surrendered, according to a human rights investigation.