Attorney General Bill Barr made the unprecedented decision to request all charges be dropped against a former Mexican government official, nicknamed “The Godfather,” a U.S. attorney said in court Wednesday. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, who was Mexico’s defense secretary from 2012 to 2018, was arrested in Los Angeles on charges of conspiracy and money laundering but the Justice Department abruptly moved to drop them Tuesday, instead opting to extradite him to his home country for prosecution. Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme told a judge in New York on Wednesday that the decision was about weighing the interests of prosecuting Cienfuegos against the U.S. relationship with Mexico.
According to VICE News, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was unaware of the initial plan to arrest Cienfuegos, and was “furious about the case.” Authorities accused Cienfuegos of taking bribes to protect one of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. Judge Carol Bagley Amon granted the DOJ’s request to drop the case. She said she had “no reason to doubt the government,” but “the old adage, a bird in hand, comes to mind.”