By Doina Chiacu and Anthony Esposito
WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The United States slapped sanctions on a Mexican judge and a former state governor on Friday, accusing them of taking bribes from drug traffickers, and saying that government corruption had allowed Mexican drug gangs to grow and operate with impunity.
Nine other people and ten groups were also designated in the sanctions for what the U.S. Treasury Department said was their involvement with drug trafficking and links to the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Los Cuinis Drug Trafficking Organization.
The CJNG is one of Mexico's dominant drug gangs and the second-biggest seller of drugs on U.S. streets, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
"Our ultimate goal is to destroy and degrade drug trafficking organizations such as the CJNG and Los Cuinis. Today's action is another step toward our goal," said DEA Los Angeles' Special Agent in Charge, David J. Downing.
The magistrate judge, Isidro Avelar Gutierrez, accepted bribes from drug trafficking organizations in exchange for favorable rulings for their senior members, Treasury said. The former governor of the Mexican state of Nayarit, Roberto Sandoval Castaneda, was designated for corruption activities including accepting bribes and misappropriating state funds.
Sandoval said on Twitter that he ready to give the authorities the information they needed and that he had been truthful and governed according to the law.
Sigal Mandelker, U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in prepared remarks in Mexico City, said those targeted with sanctions would be cut off from the U.S. financial system and their activities in Mexico disrupted.
"Corrupt officials callously enrich themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens and economic sanctions impose a serious cost to those individuals and limit their ability to enjoy their ill-gotten gains," said Mandelker.
Mexico's finance ministry said in a statement that the targeted people were on the "blacklists" of both countries.
"This is a new era of inter-agency collaboration and coordination between our nations in the fight against corruption, money laundering and the financing of terrorism," said Santiago Nieto, head of the Mexican finance ministry's financial intelligence unit.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, has pledged to stamp out corruption.
A senior member of the CJNG, Gonzalo Mendoza Gaytan, who is also known as "El Sapo," was among those hit with sanctions, for what the U.S. said was kidnappings and numerous killings. His wife, Liliana Rosas Camba, had sanctions imposed for handling business activities and laundering drug money, Treasury said.
Three of Sandoval Castaneda's family members were blacklisted for holding his "ill-gotten assets in their names," it said.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Rosalba O'Brien)