If the mobsters of yesteryear taught us anything it’s that when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of court trials, prosecutors will always find someone willing to talk to save their own ass. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that feds found people willing to testify against drug cartel legend Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera during his trial, but what is surprising is that the latest witness is the would-be heir to the Sinaloa drug cartel, Vicente Zambada Niebla.
According to the New York Times the son of cartel leader Ismael Zambada García, Vicente Zambada Niebla aka El Vicentillo, took the stand on Thursday and testified for more than five hours about everything he knew of his daddy’s drug empire and the extracurricular activities that come with it.
Zambada revealed all he knew about “smuggling routes, money-laundering schemes, bloody wars, personal vendettas and multimillion dollars in bribes. When it came to the enterprise he seemed poised to lead one day, Mr. Zambada proved he knew almost everyone and everything.”
Naturally during his testimony the apple of daddy’s eye also implicated the most famous drug lord of this generation as he “bombarded jurors with countless stories of Mr. Guzmán and his father shipping tons of drugs in cars, trains, planes and submarines — even in a truck beneath a load of frozen meat.
Mr. Zambada also testified that his father’s bribery budget was often as much as $1 million a month. An Army general who worked as an official in the Mexican defense department earned a monthly stipend of $50,000 from the cartel, Mr. Zambada recalled. He also said that his father routinely bribed a military officer who once served as a personal guard to Mexico’s former president, Vicente Fox.”
And that was just the tip of the iceberg. The man had five hours worth of stories in which he detailed how he rose in ranks of the cartel and expanded his father’s drug empire from Mexico to the United States, but the real kicker came in 2009.
“Mr. Zambada was arrested during an Army operation in Mexico City and extradited to Chicago. At first, he was expected to be prosecuted there on charges of smuggling tons of drugs while serving as his father’s right-hand man. But before his trial began, his lawyers dropped a bombshell: They claimed that for years he had been working secretly as a spy for the D.E.A., swapping information about his rivals in exchange for the ability to run his business freely.”
Talk about the lack of loyalty in the game. For their part American authorities acknowledge meeting with the young drug boss but deny coming to any sort of agreement in which they’d let him continue his business.
Mr. Zambada ultimately pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in a secret proceeding in Chicago in 2013. And for the last five years, he has been waiting to appear in court and tell his story.
And what a story he’s been telling.