MEXICO CITY – A major drug cartel has infiltrated the Mexican attorney general's office, and one cartel worker says he even spied on DEA operations from inside U.S. Embassy, Mexican prosecutors said Monday.
Five officials of the Attorney General's Organized Crime unit were arrested on allegations they served as informants for the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said, adding there are indications that other spies still work inside his agency.
The Embassy employee, who also worked for Interpol at the Mexico City airport, is a protected witness after telling Mexican officials in Washington that he leaked details of Drug Enforcement Administration operations, an attorney general's official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. He said he was not authorized to speak on the record.
U.S. Embassy officials had no immediate comment, saying they generally avoid discussing internal operating or security issues.
Separately, a U.S. official announced Monday that a high-ranking Mexican immigration official had been caught in Arizona with 170 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle.
The revelations of corruption inside the control centers of the U.S.-Mexican anti-drug effort were a major blow to President Felipe Calderon's anti-drug campaign, in which he has sent tens of thousands of troops and federal police across Mexico to combat violent cartels.
Calderon himself has long acknowledged corruption is widespread in police forces. Monday's case represents the most serious known infiltration of anti-crime agencies since the 1997 arrest of Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, then head of Mexico's anti-drug agency. Gutierrez Rebollo was later convicted of aiding drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes.
Despite the corruption, Mexico continues to arrest top smugglers. The latest victory came Saturday with the arrest of Eduardo Arellano Felix after a shootout in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego. He had allegedly been running the Arellano Felix cartel with his sister since several brothers were arrested or killed.
Assistant Attorney General Marisela Morales said two top employees of her organized-crime unit and at least three federal police agents assigned to it may have been passing information on surveillance targets and potential raids for at least four years.
One of the officials was an assistant intelligence director and the other served as a liaison in requesting searches and assigning officers to carry them out.
All but one of the officials were arrested weeks ago.
The agents and officials each received payments of between $150,000 and $450,000 per month for the information, Morales said.
The Embassy infiltrator gave details of his involvement to Mexican officials in Washington, the prosecutors official said, but it is unclear if he is under Mexican or U.S. protection. The official did not give details of the information he allegedly passed on to the cartel.
The newspaper El Universal reported Monday that the man had worked as a "criminal investigator" at the embassy, had received at least $30,000 and may have revealed details about the DEA hunt for American drug suspect Craig Petties, who was later captured here. It cited unnamed sources.
The Beltran-Leyva brothers lead one of the groups that make up northern Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, the country's largest drug-trafficking confederation.