Federal prosecutors are seeking a staggering $12.7billion from convicted drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman – the amount they believe his cartel made from drug sales in the US.
Filed by prosecutors on Friday, the motion states that authorities are ‘entitled to forfeiture of all property that constitutes or is derived from the defendant’s narcotics-related crimes.’
Based on prices for drugs quoted by various witnesses, Guzman’s 25-year reign atop the murderous Sinaloa cartel netted sales of some $11.8billion in cocaine, $846million in marijuana and $11million in heroin, authorities said.
The money was laundered and used to pay the cartel’s workers and suppliers, as well as used to purchase communications equipment and ‘planes, submarines and other vehicles.’
‘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.
Guzman’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said the demand is ‘largely an academic exercise as the government has never located or identified even a penny of this $12.7billion in proceeds supposedly generated by Mr. Guzman.’
Another of his attorneys, Mariel Colon, added: ‘It’s insane to think that Guzman would have all that money.’
However, prosecutors don’t need to prove that Guzman actually has the means to pay the forfeiture, rather that he at one time had assets totaling the outlined amount.
Guzman, 62, was found guilty in February following a three-month trial for trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana to the United States over the course of 25 years.
He was also convicted on money laundering and weapons possession charges by jurors who heard how he had beaten, shot and even buried alive those who got in his way.
A former El Chapo associate said during the trial that the drug kingpin lived a lavish lifestyle in the 1990s – the height of his power – with four jets for traveling the world, a beachfront mansion in Acapulco, gold jewel-encrusted guns and a private zoo on his sprawling estate in Guadalajara.
Other of his associates testified during the several month trial that the cartel would yield up to $35,000 per kilogram of cocaine, and average $55,000 per kilogram of heroin.
It was not clear which assets Guzman still possesses following his extradition to the United States in January 2017 and which have been transferred to family and friends.
Earlier this week a judge denied the defense’s request for a new trial or an evidentiary hearing to investigate potential juror misconduct.
Guzman’s attorneys attempted to claim that jurors had acted wrongfully by following media coverage of the trial, however, the judge said the ‘mountain range of evidence’ against him outweighed the severity of their claims.
Guzman is currently being held in a Manhattan federal prison. He is set to be sentenced on July 17, and is expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars.