With El Chapo convicted, Ted Cruz wants drug lord’s money to pay for border wall. It won’t work: experts
With the news that Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera was found guilty of overseeing a massive smuggling operation on Tuesday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had an idea: revive his plan to have the crime lord pay for U.S. President Donald Trump‘s border wall.
In 2017, Cruz introduced the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act (EL CHAPO Act), legislation that would have taken any money recovered from the smuggler and other drug lords so that it could pay for a wall along America’s southwest border.
WATCH: DEA shares video from Mexican drug lord El Chapo’s 2017 extradition
Cruz reintroduced the bill in January, saying that “ensuring the safety and security of Texans is one of my top priorities.”
A January statement by the senator noted that the U.S. government is seeking the forfeiture of “more than $14 billion in drug proceeds and illicit profits” from El Chapo, money that would be more than enough to satisfy the $5.7 billion that Trump is seeking from Congress for wall construction.
“Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way to secure our southern border, and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons and individuals,” Cruz said in the statement.
“By leveraging any criminally-forfeited assets of El Chapo and other murderous drug lords, we can offset the cost of securing our border and make meaningful progress toward delivering on the promises made to the American people.”
Cruz promoted his legislation in a series of tweets on Tuesday, urging people to become “citizen co-sponsors” of the act.
The EL CHAPO Act has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But numerous people who have worked in security don’t believe the legislation will achieve what it intends.
The U.S. Justice Department has, indeed, estimated El Chapo’s wealth at $14 billion — it calculated this number using a formula that looked at the amount of drugs that the Sinaloa Cartel was believed to have trafficked into America.
But money recovered from drug traffickers doesn’t usually fund congressional initiatives like a border wall.
That money is generally deposited into the Assets Forfeiture Fund, which helps to pay for the costs of actions such as “managing and disposing of property, satisfying valid liens, mortgages, and other innocent owner claims, and costs associated with accomplishing the legal forfeiture of the property.”
The funds also help to finance investigative expenses, and police training and equipment, according to the Justice Department.
WATCH: Defense attorney says he’ll continue to fight for El Chapo
Using forfeiture funds to pay for a wall could hurt law enforcement, ex-Justice official Stef Cassella told Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence two years ago.
“Congress has provided for decades that criminal proceeds should be used for restitution to victims and then for financing law enforcement operations, not for projects that members of Congress might just happen to think are desirable on a particular day,” he said at the time.
And that’s assuming that $14 billion can even be recovered — some experts aren’t so sure that’s possible.
El Chapo’s savings are likely closer to $1 billion, ex-intelligence officer Alejandro Hope told Univision in 2017.
But that was just a guess — the drug lord’s net worth could be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars, not billions, he said.
Even if one were to try to recover the cash, it’s likely been laundered or hidden, buried in the desert or stashed in the walls of a building, Univision noted.
Cruz’s idea, Hope said, is “complete BS.”
- With files from Reuters
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