Former Mexican defense minister due back in federal court in Los Angeles

Mimi Dwyer
·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Mexico's then Defense Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda attends a flag-raising ceremony honouring the victims of the September 1985 and 2017 earthquakes at Zocalo square in Mexico City, Mexico
FILE PHOTO: Mexico's then Defense Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda attends a flag-raising ceremony honouring the victims of the September 1985 and 2017 earthquakes at Zocalo square in Mexico City, Mexico

By Mimi Dwyer

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Attorneys for Mexico's former defense minister, Salvador Cienfuegos, were due in federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday as prosecutors seek to have him held without bond on charges that he used his power in office to protect a major drug cartel.

Cienfuegos, 72, is charged with four counts of drug trafficking and money laundering. His lawyers may also tell the court whether their client will fight attempts to send him to New York, where the indictment was handed down in a U.S. district court.

It was not clear if Cienfuegos, who appeared at his first hearing last week via video link from a federal detention center, would be present for the proceedings.

He was arrested last week at Los Angeles International Airport over accusations that he took bribes in return for protection for alleged cartel members, which included warning them about U.S. investigations.

Prosecutors have accused Cienfuegos of using his office to protect the H-2 narcotics cartel, directing operations against rival gangs and finding maritime transport for shipments of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

The arrest of Cienfuegos - nicknamed El Padrino, or "The Godfather," in an August 2019 indictment that was sealed until last week - marked the first time a former Mexican defense minister has been indicted and detained.

Cienfuegos has not yet entered a plea to the charges. During a brief court appearance last week Cienfuegos' attorneys asked that his bond hearing be postponed to give them more time to prepare.

(Reporting by Mimi Dwyer; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Aurora Ellis)