CHICAGO – A Mexican man charged with smuggling tons of cocaine into the United States told a federal judge in Chicago that U.S. authorities protected his outfit, the powerful Sinaloa cartel, in exchange for information on rival gangs.
The defendant, Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, is the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, reputed right-hand man of Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and played an important role in the organization until his March 2009 arrest in Mexico City.
Zambada Niebla was extradited to the United States in 2010 and will go on trial this week in Chicago.
In legal pleadings submitted to U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo, Zambada Niebla said the collaboration between the Sinaloa cartel and U.S. law enforcement arose from the 1995 drug indictment of Mexican attorney Humberto Loya Castro, “a close confidante” of Chapo Guzman.
Loya subsequently became a U.S. government informant, according to the pleading.
“Sometime prior to 2004 ... the United States government entered into an agreement with Loya and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, including Mayo and Chapo,” the document says. “Under that agreement, the Sinaloa Cartel, through Loya, was to provide information accumulated by Mayo, Chapo, and others, against rival Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations” to U.S. authorities.
“In return, the United States government agreed to dismiss the prosecution of the pending case against Loya, not to interfere with his drug trafficking activities and those of the Sinaloa Cartel, to not actively prosecute him, Chapo, Mayo, and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, and to not apprehend them,” the pleading claims.
Just hours before his March 2009 arrest, Zambada Niebla said, he met at a Mexico City hotel with U.S. agents who assured him the arrangement was still in effect, but that he would start communicating directly with the Drug Enforcement Administration, rather than through Loya.
The deal stipulated that Sinaloa bosses would be “informed by agents of the DEA through Loya that United States government agents and/or Mexican authorities were conducting investigations near the home territories of cartel leaders so that the cartel leaders could take appropriate actions to evade investigators,” the pleading says.
U.S. officials also pledged, according to Zambada Niebla, not to “share any of the information they had about the Sinaloa Cartel and/or the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel with the Mexican government.”
Federal prosecutors responded to the pleading by asking the judge to order Zambada Niebla to produce “evidence that a specific American official or officials with actual or apparent authority expressly authorized” him to import cocaine and heroin into the United States or assured him “that these acts were not criminal.”
The indictment accuses of Zambada Niebla of coordinating the import of “multi-ton quantities of cocaine ... using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft ... buses, rail cars, tractor-trailers, and automobiles.” EFE