Sunday 8 December 2019

Sean Penn not to be investigated over El Chapo meeting

Actor Sean Penn shakes hands with Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in Mexico during their meeting in October for a ‘Rolling Stone’ interview. Photo: Rolling Stone
Actor Sean Penn shakes hands with Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in Mexico during their meeting in October for a ‘Rolling Stone’ interview. Photo: Rolling Stone

Mexico is not directly investigating actors Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo for secretly meeting with drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, but will look into the circumstances, a government spokesman said yesterday.

The clandestine meeting in early October to discuss a Rolling Stone magazine article was essential to finding the fugitive drug lord, Mexico's attorney general said on Monday.

Guzman was recaptured on Friday in northwest Mexico and is now back in the same maximum security prison he escaped from in July via a tunnel that burrowed right up into his cell. The magazine article by Penn was published on Saturday.

Deeply concerned that Guzman could escape for a third time, Mexico has beefed up security at his prison, reinforcing the floor of his cell and placing a guard on his door 24/7.

He is now being held in isolation in another part of the prison, a Mexican security source said.

The improved security measures also include reducing the number of inmates, quadrupling the number of cameras on the site and moving Guzman randomly, without warning, to different parts of the prison, Mexico government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told Reuters.

Before his brazen jailbreak last year, the notorious drug boss instructed his lawyers to trademark his name, giving Mexican authorities their first clue that he wanted to make a film of his life, local media said on Tuesday.

During his previous 17 month stint behind bars, Guzman asked his lawyers to begin the process of trade-marking his name with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola said. However, IMPI denied his request.

IMPI could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to documents seen by Reuters, IMPI rejected two applications to trademark the names "Joaquin El Chapo Guzman" and "El Chapo Guzman" in 2011, filed by Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman, who is believed to be his daughter.

The applications - for clothing and apparel, not movies - were denied on the grounds that Guzman was a wanted man.

A search on the IMPI website shows a brand under the name "El Chapo," first registered in 2006.

Local media did not explain how authorities knew at this time that Guzman might be seeking a trademark to make a film.

Mexico has said it plans to extradite Guzman, head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, to the United States, where he is wanted for exporting hundreds of tonnes of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin across the border.

Mexico has received guarantees from a court in Texas that if it receives Guzman as part of his extradition, it will not seek the death penalty against him, the Attorney General Office's head of International Proceedings, Jose Manuel Merino, said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday.

He added that the Mexican government will present a "diplomatic note" to U.S. authorities so that no other U.S. jurisdiction will be able to seek the death penalty, which is outlawed in Mexico, against the extradited drug lord.

The drug kingpin initially gave Mexican security forces the slip as they staged a dawn raid, opening a secret door hidden behind a mirror in his walk-in bedroom closet, and descending into a tunnel about 30 meters long that connected to the drains.

Guzman and a top henchman stole a white Volkswagen Jetta at gunpoint as they emerged from a drainage tunnel after crawling a mile through an underground drain.

The car turned out to be a clunker, and they ditched it after about a mile, stealing another car. They were then stopped and captured by police shortly afterwards.

The U.S. government wants Guzman, who is believed to be 58 years old, tried on charges ranging from money laundering to drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder.

Guzman, who is blamed for thousands of deaths in Mexico and the United States from addiction and gang warfare, is facing open federal indictments in seven U.S. jurisdictions.


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