El Chapo earned $12,666,181,704, prosecutors say, they want him to pay it back

NEW YORK — In his 30-year career as one of Mexico’s wiliest and most successful drug lords, Joaquín Guzmán Loera — better known as El Chapo — made so much money selling drugs that he once owned a pair of yachts, a fleet of Learjets and a private zoo with tigers, crocodiles and panthers. His fortune was vast enough that he was named to Forbes magazine’s annual list of billionaires four times.

El Chapo earned $12,666,181,704, prosecutors say, they want him to pay it back

But now the federal prosecutors who convicted Guzmán at his trial this winter in New York have put an actual price tag on his earnings, calculating the amount down to the dollar. And they want him to pay it back.

Late last week, the prosecutors filed a forfeiture request against the kingpin, laying out in remarkable detail how he had transformed staggering quantities of drugs into equally staggering profits over the years.

From the early 1990s until his arrest in 2016, the prosecutors said, Guzmán handled nearly 600,000 kilograms of cocaine (worth more than $11 billion), 200 kilograms of heroin (worth more than $11 million) and at least 420,000 kilograms of marijuana (worth about $846 million.)

Total bill due: $12,666,181,704.

As astonishing as these figures seem to be, the prosecutors noted that they were only a “conservative” estimate of the still unknown — and perhaps unknowable — total amount of drugs that Guzmán may have smuggled during his lucrative life of crime.

In their 12-page forfeiture document, prosecutors said they had arrived at the numbers by adding up all the narcotics provided to Guzmán by only a few of his many suppliers: Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía, Jorge Cifuentes-Villa and Luis Caicedo, known as “Don Lucho.”

Both Ramírez and Cifuentes testified against Guzmán at his trial to devastating effect. But although Caicedo secretly pleaded guilty to drug charges in Brooklyn — and thus was theoretically available to testify — he never appeared on the witness stand.

At this point, it remains unclear how much, if anything, of the $12.7 billion that the government is seeking from Guzmán will ultimately be recouped.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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