The Star Early Edition
How actor Sean Penn led police to top druglord
Dreams of Hollywood caused downfall
ASECRETIVE meeting that Hollywood star Sean Penn orchestrated with Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman in a jungle hideout late last year helped Mexico’s government catch the world’s most wanted druglord.
Guzman, the infamous boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was arrested in north-west Mexico on Friday morning, and sent back to the prison he broke out of in July through a tunnel that led straight into his cell.
Mexico aims to extradite Guzman to the US as soon as possible.
Penn’s rare access to Guzman was assisted by Mexican actress Kate del Castillo. They were driven some of the way to the hideout by Guzman’s son.
Another leg of the day-long trip through Mexico was on a light aircraft fitted with equipment to evade radar detection, Penn said in a story published in Rolling Stone magazine on Saturday.
Penn said in the article that he was sure the Mexican government and the US Drug Enforcement Administration were tracking him.
And two senior Mexican gov- ernment sources said they were aware of the October meeting and monitored his movements.
That helped lead them days later to a ranch where Guzman was staying, one of the sources said. Mexican forces used helicopter gunships to attack Guzman’s ranch during a siege that lasted days.
The kingpin narrowly escaped, with what he told Del Castillo was a minor leg injury, but the raid was a breakthrough in the manhunt.
Guzman was finally recaptured on Friday in Los Mochis. Mexican marines pursued the kingpin through storm drains before intercepting him.
Penn’s seven-hour encounter with Guzman came about after Guzman became interested in making a movie of his life when he was inundated with requests from US movie studios after his 2014 capture.
Guzman’s lawyer approached Del Castillo about the possibility of making a film, but the project was dropped in favour of a magazine interview.
The encounter adds a new twist to the long and larger-than-life career of Guzman, whose nickname “Chapo” means “Shorty”.
Penn unsuccessfully tried to set up a formal follow-up interview. Instead, as Mexican security forces closed in on Guzman, Penn and Del Castillo persuaded him to film a tape answering pre-written questions, and ship them the footage.
The video clips show the druglord in a colourful shirt and black cap at a different hideout, musing about his contribution to the narcotics trade and US consumption. Rolling Stone called it the druglord’s first interview outside an interrogation.
The meeting was made possible because Guzman struck up a friend- ship with Del Castillo, who played a Mexican drug queen in a TV soap.
Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez on Friday said the drug boss’s yearning for the silver screen had helped bring him down.
The meeting with Penn and Del Castillo yielded insight into how Guzman may have continued to conduct business while he was incarcerated. Penn said some of Guzman’s henchmen were certified as lawyers to allow them access to the boss while he was in prison.
Penn said Guzman sent engin- eers to Germany for three months of training on how to avoid problems when excavating near a lowlying water table beneath the prison where he was being held in order to perfect the audacious escape plan.
Guzman also revealed to Penn that he had once met Colombian Pablo Escobar, perhaps the world’s most notorious cocaine trafficker,at his house.
A Mexican government source said authorities were considering whether to investigate Penn and Del Castillo for money laundering.