MEXICO CITY – A top police official who worked as Mexico's main liaison with Interpol was placed under house arrest as part of an investigation into leaks of information to drug cartels, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The arrest of Ricardo Gutierrez Vargas — who served as director for International Police Affairs and Interpol at the Federal Investigative Agency — was the latest blow to Mexico's police forces, which have seen a number of top officials linked to the nation's powerful and violent drug gangs.
The investigation that netted Gutierrez Vargas also resulted in the detention of several other federal police officials in recent weeks on suspicion of leaking information to traffickers.
An Interpol Web site identified Gutierrez Vargas as head of Interpol's Mexico National Central Bureau, or NCB.
The site said NCB officers are employed by their local countries' police forces rather than the Lyon, France-based Interpol General Secretariat. Officials at Interpol's offices in Lyon were not available Tuesday.
Interpol said "each NCB is connected to INTERPOL's secure police communications network I-24/7, which enables them to share crucial information on criminals and criminal activities 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Officials in those offices have direct access to databases of information on suspected terrorists, wanted persons, fingerprints and DNA profiles, among others things, the agency said.
Earlier this month, Mexican prosecutors announced that Rodolfo de la Guardia Garcia, the No. 2 official at the Federal Investigative Agency from 2003-2005, was placed under house arrest for 40 days as investigators look into the possibility he leaked information to the Sinaloa cartel in return for monthly payments.
De la Guardia was elected to Interpol's executive committee in 2002 but was removed from that post by the Mexican government in 2004, the Interpol General Secretariat said in a statement at the time.
The detentions of both Gutierrez Vargas and De la Guardia are part of the Mexican government's "Operation Clean House," which is aimed at weeding out corruption that came to light after the January arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva, a reputed Sinaloa cartel lieutenant.
Former federal police commissioner Gerardo Garay and three other officials of the Public Safety Department were placed under house arrest earlier, though officials have not revealed the allegations against them.
In recent weeks, the Sinaloa cartel also has been linked to four Mexican military officers and one soldier, as well as five officials in the organized-crime unit of the attorney general's office, which oversees the agency that employed de la Guardia.
On Tuesday, prosecutors also announced the detention of a crusading former federal police official for questioning on possible links to organized crime.
The Attorney General's Office said former regional police coordinator Javier Herrera has been detained for 48 hours. No formal charges have been filed, and it was unclear if Herrera had a lawyer.
Herrera had openly accused top federal police officials of incompetence and mismanagement and has since been dismissed from his post.