Witness in El Chapo trial describes drug lord's wealth, including a private zoo, a $10 million beach house and a ranch in every state
El Chapo's trial is currently in its third week, with the latest witness describing the drug lord's opulent lifestyle. El Chapo had houses on every beach and ranches in every state
The trial of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán has been underway in Brooklyn, New York, for the past few weeks, with each day bringing new revelations about the massive scale at which the 63-year-old had been running operations. The latest to testify against Chapo was Miguel Ángel Martínez, a former accomplice and top-level assistant who switched sides and became a government witness.
According to the Daily Mail, Martinez laid out the details of the opulent lifestyle Chapo led from the money he made through his smuggling contraband into the United States and other countries, including how the cartel supremo owned private zoos with exotic animals, traveled to Switzerland to receive anti-aging treatments, gifted employees luxury cars, had ranches in every state, and bought properties at every beach in Mexico. "He had houses at every single beach," he said. "He had ranches in every single state."
Martínez painted a picture of how a cocaine boom in the 90s allowed Chapo to come about his fortune, with the Sinaloa Cartel smuggling tons of cocaine (over 340,000 pounds in approximation) into the country between 1989 and 2014. It was previously revealed that the organization had also smuggled an estimated $14 billion in drugs into the U.S alone over the past 25 years. He also described how the cartel smuggled such large quantities of contraband, suggesting they used tunnels dug under the border, tanker trucks with secret compartments, and even fake chili pepper cans to get the job done. In return for the goods, they received tens of millions of dollars in cash, Martínez said.
This cash would then find its way to Tijuana, where Chapo would send three private jets a month to pick it up. Each plane could carry up to $10 million, with the money then ending up in stash houses or banks where workers were bribed to exchange it for pesos without questioning its source.
The Guardian reported of how Martínez went on to further lay bare Chapo's extravagant lifestyle. He said the 63-year-old used his jets to fly around Mexico to visit his numerous homes, but never without bodyguards in tow. One of those homes was allegedly in Acapulco and featured a zoo with a "little train" which the drug lord rode around in to see lions, tigers, and panthers. He also said the house had a yacht christened "Chapito."
His other expenses included "four or five" women who had to be paid at regular intervals, he said, adding how, over time, Chapo had developed a taste for world travel. This saw his entourage often travel to Macau to gamble and Chapo travel to Switzerland to receive "cellular youth treatment."
But this lifestyle was eventually marred by a bloody conflict which had its origins in an argument over territory, Martínez revealed. It culminated in the rival cartel sending a team of hitmen to an airport in Guadalajara to kill Chapo in 1993, but the drug lord escaped, and the hitmen mistakenly took out a respected Roman Catholic cardinal instead.
The incident triggered a massive public backlash against Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel and resulted in the government announcing a manhunt for his capture. It would result in the 63-year-old's arrest and incarceration the same year, though he would stage a jailbreak and escape. He was arrested a second time in 2014 and extradited to the US, where he's currently facing a 17-count indictment accusing him of multiple crimes, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder.
Chapo has pleaded not guilty to the drug-trafficking charges, with his lawyers claiming he's being framed by shady cooperators. The defense also attacked Martínez's credibility, bringing up his severe cocaine habit that allegedly saw him snort up to four grams of the drug every day and permanently damage his nose. Martínez admitted to the use but claimed he was 20 years clean.
Chapo's wife, Emma Coronel was in the courthouse, but prosecutors accused the defense lawyers of violating strict security measures by providing her with a cell phone. The judge said on Tuesday, November 27, that any immediate concerns had been resolved, and the trial, which is now in its third week, continues.