1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

US seeks $12.7 billion from 'El Chapo'

July 6, 2019

Citing years of narcotics trafficking, US prosecutors have called for "El Chapo" to forfeit billions in drug money. But his lawyer dismissed the request, saying "the government has never located or identified a penny."

A court drawing of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
Image: picture-alliance/E. Williams

US prosecutors on Friday said they were seeking a court order for $12.7 billion (€11.3 billion) belonging to notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Authorities are "entitled to forfeiture of all property that constitutes or is derived from the defendant's narcotics-related crimes," said a motion filed by US Attorney Richard Donoghue.

In February, Guzman was found guilty of trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, marijuana and heroin, among other illegal drugs, to the US over 25 years.

Prosecutors argued that under his leadership, the Sinaloa Cartel made $11.8 billion off of cocaine sales alone.

"The government need not prove that the defendant can pay the forfeiture money judgment; it need only prove by a preponderance of evidence that the amount it seeks is forfeitable," prosecutors said.

Read more: Heckler & Koch's illegal arms deal with Mexico

Soldiers escort Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman onto a military helicopter
"El Chapo" feared being extradited to the USImage: Reuters/T. Bravo

'Academic exercise'

But Guzman's lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, hit back at the prosecutors' demands, saying they don't have evidence that the money even exists.

"This is largely an academic exercise as the government has never located or identified a penny of this $12.7 billion in proceeds supposedly generated by Mr. Guzman," Lichtman said.

Guzman's trial took three months and offered extraordinary details about his criminal enterprise. In one instance, a key witness said Guzman had paid a bribe amounting to $100 million to Mexico's former President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Guzman managed to escape from two maximum security prisons in Mexico. He was recaptured in January 2016 and later extradited to the US to stand trial for trafficking illegal narcotics into the US.

Read more: Mexico to pursue new strategy in 'war on drugs'

Every evening, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

ls/sms (AFP, Reuters)