LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it would seek dismissal of criminal charges against a former Mexican defense minister arrested last month at Los Angeles International Airport on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
Salvador Cienfuegos — Mexico’s defense minister from 2012 to 2018 — was arrested Oct. 15 after arriving at LAX with several family members, becoming the first high-ranking military official to be taken into custody in the United States in connection with drug-related corruption in his country.
The top prosecutors of both the United States and Mexico said the DOJ made the decision to drop the charges at the request of Mexico so Cienfuegos could be investigated and possibly charged under Mexican law.
According to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Fiscalia General Mexico Alejandro Gertz Manero, the DOJ, under the treaty that governs the sharing of evidence, provided Mexico with evidence in the case “and commits to continued cooperation, within that framework, to support the investigation by Mexican authorities.”
“Our two countries remain committed to cooperation on this matter, as well as all our bilateral law enforcement cooperation,” the statement reads. “As the decision today reflects, we are stronger when we work together and respect the sovereignty of our nations and their institutions. This close partnership increases the security of the citizens of both our countries.”
After his arrest at LAX, Cienfuegos — nicknamed El Padrino or The Godfather — was ordered to be transported to the Eastern District of New York to face trial, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A four-count indictment unsealed last month accused the 72-year-old of drug trafficking and money laundering, alleging that he allowed a cartel to operate in Mexico in exchange for bribes.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)