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US indicts Mexican cartel leaders on drug trafficking charges

[JURIST] Ten accused Mexican drug cartel leaders and 33 others have been indicted [press release; indictment materials] in New York and Chicago, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official websites] announced Thursday. According the indictments, four of which were filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York and eight of which were filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official websites], the cartels combined to smuggle over 200 metric tons of cocaine in the US between 1990 and 2008. In the investigations that led to the indictments, government officials seized over 32,500 kilograms of cocaine, 64 kilograms of heroin, and $22.6 million in cash. So far, the investigation has led to the indictment of 58 individuals. Many of those charged remain at large, and it is not clear how many of them are currently in the US. At a press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] stated [text]:

Our friends and partners in Mexico are waging an historic and heroic battle with the cartels as we speak. This is not a fight that we in the United States can afford to watch from the sidelines. The stakes are too high and the consequences too real for us. We will continue to investigate, charge, and arrest the cartel leaders and their subordinates, and we will continue systematically to dismantle and disrupt their far-reaching and dangerous operations.

Of the 58 people indicted, all but one could be sentenced to life in prison.

In May, Mexican security forces arrested [JURIST report] 27 Mexican public officials on drug-related corruption charges. In April, the Mexican Senate passed an amendment [JURIST report] to the country's constitution that would permit the government to seize property from suspected drug traffickers and other criminals prior to conviction. In October, reports indicated that both the Assistant Attorney General’s Office Specializing in Organized Crime (SIEDO) and the US Embassy in Mexico had been infiltrated [JURIST report] by a branch of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which paid officials to turn over confidential information. The chief of Mexico's Federal Preventative Police resigned [JURIST report] in connection to the investigation.

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