By Tom Hays, AP
NEW YORK (AP) — After El Chapo’s conviction in a drug-trafficking trial that included florid testimony of jewel-encrusted guns, a fleet of cash-laden jets and a personal zoo with roaming big cats, some Americans have floated an idea they see as poetic justice: Why not take some of the Mexican drug lord’s billions in ill-gotten gains and make him pay for a border wall?
That may be a tall order, especially since federal officials can’t say for sure how much Joaquin Guzman may still have from his decades of smuggling drugs into the U.S., or how exactly they intend to get their hands on it.
For now, the U.S. Department of Justice says it will be seeking forfeiture of a fortune that Guzman’s indictment valued at $14 billion. Authorities won’t say how they came up with that figure, but experts say it is likely based on evidence of the value of the proceeds of massive drug shipments and whatever assets were used as part of the trafficking enterprise.
With Guzman, who faces life in prison for smuggling tons of heroin, meth, fentanyl and marijuana into the U.S., authorities know their forfeiture estimate is partly symbolic, to send a message to other traffickers that a conviction could cost them their fortune as well as their freedom, said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in forfeiture.
“It’s obvious he doesn’t have $14 billion,” Levin said. “And whatever he has may be largely uncollectable.”
That reality hasn’t stopped conservatives from injecting border-wall politics into the El Chapo case. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas promises to reintroduce a bill named after El Chapo that would require money seized from Mexican cartels be dedicated to a border security.
Cruz said in an interview on Fox News that he got the idea for the bill more than a year ago as Congress was debating the cost of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, then estimated at around $14 billion.
“There’s a natural and elegant symmetry that suggested itself,” Cruz said. “Those billions that El Chapo has were made trafficking illegally across the U.S. border, bringing narcotics across the border, and it is only right that those ill-gotten gains go to fixing the problem of stopping the next narco-trafficker.”
Getting at those gains is another matter.
Read the full story on the Associated Press website.