El Chapo’s money, a binational issue
El Chapo’s money is a binational issue, The US justice demands 12,000 million dollars from the capo. López Obrador advocates that Mexico recover the seized assets
Not even two days have passed since the reading of the sentence against Joaquín Guzmán 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 Guzmán sold there, according to the estimate of the investigators themselves. Meanwhile, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López 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.
Before López 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 a coordinated manner with the United States embassy and the North American agencies in all the related cases of Mr. [Joaquín Guzmán]. We are in the process of receiving and analyzing the information that is available.” Since his arrival in 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 dollars is a calculation by the US prosecutor’s office, based on the number of drugs that El Chapo and his organization sold in the United States. The jury found that Guzmán 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 Guzmán’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 Guzmán. Of any criminal, really. 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 benefits between the drug trafficker and his partners, the bribes to the authorities, the renewal of its logistical structures, and so on. How much of that money finally reached the pockets of Joaquín Guzmán?
Pursued since his first prison break in 2001, Guzmán 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 dropped 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 Mazatlán, 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 of him and, above all, questioned the power of the well-known empire of El Chapo. Guzmán fell and from then on his life, went back and forth. He first escaped from prison, then the authorities caught him again and months later they extradited him to the United States. It seems that more than winning, the last few years were pure spending for Guzmán.