A former Mexican cartel member who is testifying for the U.S. government at the trial of notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman detailed Thursday how the Sinaloa cartel paid bribes, preferably in U.S. dollars, to high-ranking police and other officials to protect its operation.
Jesus Zambada, whose brother was once considered one of the cartel's leaders, said during his second day on the witness stand in Brooklyn that Guzman once directed him to give $100,000, along with a hug, to a general in the state of Guerrero.
On Wednesday, Zambada had identified Guzman in the courtroom and told jurors he "was one of the most powerful drug traffickers in Mexico."
The witness described how the cartel made massive profits by smuggling tons of cocaine into the United States.
Zambada — a 57-year-old trained accountant who was arrested in 2008 and is still in U.S. custody — was the first of several cooperators expected to give jurors an inside look at a cartel with a legendary lust for drugs, cash and violence.
The defense, which says Guzman is being framed, has described cooperating witnesses like Zambada as liars seeking to reduce their own sentences.
Despite his diminutive stature and nickname that means "Shorty" in Spanish, Guzman was once a larger-than-life kingpin both feared and admired in Mexico. The defense has sought to counter that reputation by portraying him as lesser figure in a drug gang.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors gave jurors a video tour of a sophisticated tunnel between Mexico and an Arizona warehouse that they said was used to speed drug deliveries to America. The warehouse was just two blocks from a U.S. Customs office in the border city of Douglas.