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Seizing El Chapo’s Money Likely Impossible

Senator Ted Cruz and Ben Sasse have co-sponsored legislation to seize the bank accounts of el Chapo Guzman to pay for the wall. While this is great in theory, some of that money should go to the victims as well.

El Chapo has been sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years and he is to forfeit his vast sums of money estimated to be as high as $12 billion. C’mon, this is likely not going to happen in total but there is a possibility to find perhaps some of it. Why?

Guzman’s trial highlighted the methods Guzman Loera and his organization used to transport the cartel’s multi-ton shipments of narcotics into the United States, including fishing boats, submarines, carbon fiber airplanes, trains with secret compartments and transnational underground tunnels. Once the narcotics were in the United States, they were sold to wholesale distributors in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Arizona, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Guzman Loera then used various methods to launder billions of dollars of drug proceeds, including bulk cash smuggling from the United States to Mexico, U.S.-based insurance companies, reloadable debit cards and numerous shell companies, including a juice company and a fish flour company.

Guzman built a global empire and that included hiring expert lawyers, accountants and investors. The Federal Court of New York in 2008 proved that HSBC, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and Bank of America were directly related to money laundering. The same court found that HSBC had laundered at least $1.1 billion from Sinaloa.

Drug cartel leaders may be uneducated in the traditional sense, but as the agents pursuing them know all too well, they are wily strategists and extremely sophisticated business people. Because their business depends on identifying and exploiting loopholes in the world’s legal and financial systems, they hire the brightest talent they can find to help them achieve their goals, and pay them extraordinarily well. Of the many money-laundering methods utilized by drug cartels, “structuring” – depositing amounts smaller than $10,000 to avoid Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reporting regulations – is the most popular, even though it’s also the easiest form of money laundering to detect. Structuring is the most common reason Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) are filed by banks, but it’s also the most direct way to get money into a U.S. bank account. To push the odds in their favor, drug traffickers hire a veritable army of people to deposit small amounts of cash in banks all over the country, in cities large and small. Many get caught, but to the cartels, that’s simply the cost of doing business.

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