‘El Gordo’ spills secrets about Joaquín Guzmán’s drug operations

At the accused Mexican drug lord's trial, Miguel Ángel Martínez gave details on the drug operation

‘El Gordo’ spills secrets about Joaquín Guzmán’s drug operations
“When I met him, he didn’t have a jet. In the 90s, he had four,” explained the witness - Photo: Pedro Mera/Xinhua
English 28/11/2018 19:34 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Brendan Pierson/Reuters & Víctor Sancho/EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 19:36
Guardando favorito...

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was “the boss” of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, a witness told jurors in the accused Mexican drug lord’s trial in Brooklyn federal court on Monday, contradicting the claim by Guzmán’s lawyers that his dominance of the drug trade was a myth.

Miguel Ángel Martínez, also known as “El Gordo” and “El Tololoche,” who described himself as a former manager in the cartel, took the witness stand on the sixth day of Guzmán’s drug trafficking trial, testifying under an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors. For his safety, court sketch artists were ordered not to draw an accurate likeness of him.

“I knew that he was the boss,” Martínez said when a prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Robotti, asked him about Guzmán’s role in the organization. “Since I met him, he would give all of us orders.”

Guzmán, 61, was extradited from Mexico in January 2017 and faces life in prison if convicted. His lawyers are seeking to prove that another drug lord, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, actually ran the cartel and used Guzmán as a scapegoat.

Martínez said he began working for Guzmán as a pilot and as a guide to other pilots on drug flights in 1987. He said one of the pilots he assisted that year, on a flight carrying 170 kilograms (375 lbs) of cocaine, claimed he had flown in the U.S. Navy.

Martínez said he was soon relieved of his pilot duties after damaging a propeller in a botched landing with Guzmán on board. Guzmán, he recalled, told him he was a “really bad pilot” and sent him instead to Mexico City to open an office for the cartel.

Posing as attorneys, Martínez said, he and others at the office directed bribes to government officials so the cartel could operate undisturbed. The beneficiaries included a high-ranking police official, Guillermo Calderoni, who fed Guzmán information about law enforcement activities “every day,” Martínez said.

Drug shipments coming from Colombia were so large and resulted in such benefits that “El Chapo” began enjoying a lavish lifestyle. In the early 90s, Guzmán Loera was participating in one of the most profitable businesses in the world, taking advantage of the United States’ “cocaine boom.”

“When I met him, he didn’t have a jet. In the 90s, he had four,” explained the witness. “He also had houses in all of Mexico’s beaches and ranches in each state,” he added.

Furthermore, he confirmed that the drug dealer had a “very beautiful” beach house in Acapulco that cost 10 million dollars, with several swimming pools and a tennis court. He also owned a yacht named “Chapito” (Little Chapo). In one of his ranches in Guadalajara, he had his own personal zoo with “lions, tigers, panthers, and a deer.” Tourists were allowed to visit the zoo by riding a “little train.”

Martínez said he and Guzmán became close, and that in 1989, Guzmán became the godfather to Martínez’s newborn son.

“We traveled all around the world,” explained the former pilot of the cartel, “mostly for business. We looked for new sources and drug providers, specially of Asian heroin, but we also traveled for pleasure. Some of the countries we visited were Brazil, Argentina, Japan, all of Europe, and even Macao”.

Martínez said he often talked by radio to the Colombian cartel pilots who would bring cocaine to Mexico, using code words to avoid detection. Drug shipments, he explained, were “parties.” “Wine” meant jet fuel, and “girls” were planes.

In the 1990s, Martínez said, U.S. authorities became more capable of intercepting planes, and Guzmán and his Colombian suppliers largely switched to using fishing and merchant ships.

Martínez is expected to continue testifying on Tuesday.


Guardando favorito...

Noticias según tus intereses

El Universal

Las Indispensables

Termina tu día bien informado con las notas más relevantes con este newsletter

Al registrarme acepto los términos y condiciones