US demands Mexico cartel king El Chapo forfeit $12.7 billion in drug money

Mexican drug baron Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, above, as he was extradited to the United States on January 19, 2017 to face drug trafficking charges. (US Department of Justice/AFP)
Updated 06 July 2019
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US demands Mexico cartel king El Chapo forfeit $12.7 billion in drug money

  • Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s 25-year reign atop the Sinaloa cartel netted sales of some $11.8 billion in cocaine, $846 million in marijuana and $11 million in heroin
  • Guzman was found guilty in February of trafficking hundreds of tons of drugs to the US over the course of 25 years

NEW YORK: Prosecutors on Friday said they were seeking $12.7 billion from convicted Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, based on a conservative estimate of revenues from his cartel’s drug sales in the United States.
According to a motion filed by US Attorney Richard Donoghue, 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 Sinaloa cartel netted sales of some $11.8 billion in cocaine, $846 million in marijuana and $11 million 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, told US media that the demand is “largely an academic exercise as the government has never located or identified even a penny of this $12.7 billion in proceeds supposedly generated by Mr. Guzman.”
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 and a private zoo on his sprawling estate in Guadalajara.
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.
Guzman is set to be sentenced on July 17, and is expected to be ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison.


Britain and EU spar over Brexit as clock ticks down

Updated 21 September 2019

Britain and EU spar over Brexit as clock ticks down

  • Britain says a deal is possible
  • Ireland says not close to a deal

LONDON/BRUSSELS : Britain said on Friday a Brexit deal with the European Union could be reached at a summit next month, but EU member Ireland said the sides were far from agreement and London had not yet made serious proposals.
Three years after Britons voted to leave the EU, hopes of a breakthrough over the terms of its departure have been stoked in recent days by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the shape of a deal is emerging and European Commission President Juncker saying agreement is possible.
But diplomats say the two sides are split over London’s desire to remove the Irish border “backstop” from the divorce deal struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and then work out a replacement in coming years.
The backstop is an insurance policy to keep the 500-km (300-mile) border between Ireland, which will remain in the EU, and the British province of Northern Ireland open after Brexit.
“We both want to see a deal,” British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said after talks in Brussels with EU negotiator Michel Barnier. “The meeting overran, which signals we were getting into the detail.”
“There is a still a lot of work to do but there is a common purpose to secure a deal,” Barclay said, adding that Juncker and Johnson also both wanted a deal.
Leaving the EU would be Britain’s biggest shift in trade and foreign policy for more than 40 years and deprive the 28-nation bloc of one of its biggest economies. The EU has set a deadline for a deal to be reached by Oct. 31.
British parliament has rejected the deal May agreed with the EU. Johnson has said he wants to secure an amended deal at an EU summit on Oct. 17-18 but that Britain will leave the bloc if that is not possible. He will meet European Council Donald Tusk at the United Nations in New York next week.
Ireland is crucial to any Brexit solution. Unless the Irish border backstop is removed or amended, Johnson will not be able to win parliamentary approval but Ireland and the EU are unwilling to sign a deal without a solution to the border.
The EU fears a hard border could cause unrest in Northern Ireland and undermine the fragile peace provided by a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence between Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland, and the British security forces and pro-British “unionists.”
The Withdrawal Agreement that was agreed with the EU last November says the United Kingdom will remain in a customs union “unless and until” alternative arrangements are found to avoid the return of border controls in Ireland.
The British government, worried the backstop will trap it in the EU’s orbit for years to come, wants to remove it and find a solution before December 2020, when a planned transition period ends.
The British pound fell from a two-month high after the Financial Times reported Johnson had told colleagues he did not expect to reach a full “legally operable” deal next month.
One EU official said Britain’s proposals are not enough to replace the backstop.
“As it stands, it is unacceptable,” the official said. “If they don’t really change their approach, we are at an impasse.”
The European Commission said in a memo that Britain’s plans “fall short of satisfying all the objectives” of finding an alternative to the backstop, Sky News reported.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the mood music had improved and that both sides wanted a deal but that they were not close to an agreement.
“There is certainly a lot of commentary now and some of it is spin I think, in the context of where we are,” he told the BBC. “We need to be honest with people and say that we’re not close to that deal right now.”
“Everybody needs a dose of reality here, there is still quite a wide gap between what the British government have been talking about in terms of the solutions that they are proposing, and I think what Ireland and the EU will be able to support.”
Britain said on Thursday it had shared documents with Brussels setting out ideas for a Brexit deal, but an EU diplomat described them as a “smokescreen” that would not prevent a disorderly exit on the Oct. 31 departure date.
Coveney, Ireland’s second most powerful politician, said a no-deal could lead to civil unrest.
“Trade across 300 road crossings that has created a normality and a peace that is settled on the island of Ireland for the last 20 years, that now faces significant disruption,” he said. “That is what we’re fighting for here.