El Chapo’s money, a binational issue


Not even two days have passed since the reading of the sentence against Joaquin Guzman and his money has become the center of attention in Mexico and the United States. The prosecution of the second country wants to seize 12,600 million dollars from the capo, the value of the drug that Guzman sold there, according to the estimation of the investigators themselves. Meanwhile, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, said this Thursday that his government will demand from the Executive of Donald Trump the delivery of the assets seized from El Chapo: “We are going to review the matter, because what they are proposing that it be they will be left with assets obtained in this way, we do not accept it if there is no legal basis. We are not going to stop dealing with these matters through legal means.”

Before Lopez Obrador’s statements, on Wednesday, the head of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Mexican Ministry of Finance, Santiago Nieto, referred to the money issue with some caution. “We are working in coordination with the United States embassy and the North American agencies in all the related cases of Mr. [Joaquin Guzman]. We are in the process of receiving and analyzing the information that is available.” Since taking office, Nieto has reported the seizure of bank accounts linked to alleged groups of drug traffickers and fuel thieves.

In the case of El Chapo, the $12.6 billion is a calculation by the US prosecutor’s office, based on the amount of drugs that El Chapo and his organization sold in the United States. The jury found that Guzman moved more than 130,000 kilos of heroin and cocaine in the country from 1989 to 2014. For the investigators, the 12.6 billion represents a “conservative” estimate of Guzman’s earnings. On the kingpin’s side, his lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, described the prosecution’s estimates as an academic exercise.

The truth is that it is difficult to quantify the fortune of El Chapo Guzman. Of any criminal, actually. Criminal enterprises do not usually keep accounting books and if they do, it is difficult for anyone to find them. In the case of El Chapo, no documentary evidence of earnings, payments or collections appeared at trial. For not knowing, it is not known if the calculation of the United States prosecutor’s office -the 12,600 million dollars- took into account the distribution of profits between the drug trafficker and his partners, the bribes to the authorities, the renewal of its logistics structures, etc. How much of that money finally reached the pockets of Joaquin Guzman?

Pursued since his first prison break in 2001, Guzman did and undid as he pleased for more than 12 years. In 2009, his name first appeared on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires, with an estimated fortune of $1 billion. Guzman ranked 701st. Forbes would keep the capo on the list until 2012, the year in which he fell to 1,153rd place. In 2013 he no longer appeared due to flaws in the methodology. In an interview with the journalist Carmen Aristegui, the editor of the Mexican edition of the magazine, Jonathan Torres, explained: “We decided that we had to correctly quantify and assess the richness of the characters that we considered we had to put on that list. On our recommendation in the United States they recognized the need to eliminate El Chapo.”

In February 2014, Mexican authorities caught the capo in Mazatlan, the coastal capital of his home state of Sinaloa. It was the golden age of the Government of Enrique Peña Nieto, still oblivious to the scandals of Ayotzinapa, Tlatlaya or the White House. The arrest of El Chapo polished the image of the president and his government and, above all, questioned the power of El Chapo’s well-known empire. Guzman fell and since then his life has come and gone. He first escaped from prison, then the authorities caught him again, and months later he was extradited to the United States. It seems that more than winning, the last few years were pure spending for Guzman.


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