Details are emerging about the price tag on 'El Chapo' Guzmán's impressive jailbreak

Overview of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman's Escape from Central Mexico Prison
Overview of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman's Escape from Central Mexico Prison

The price Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán paid to escape from a high-security prison seems to have been pocket change for the Sinaloa cartel boss.

At the helm of the highly lucrative Sinaloa cartel, Guzmán is estimated to have a fortune exceeding $1 billion, and he reportedly paid $3 million to escape from another maximum-security prison in 2001.

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His most recent jailbreak, through a custom-built, mile-long tunnel equipped with ventilation, lighting, a motorcycle built on rails, and with an exit disguised by an unfinished home, is estimated to have cost Guzmán $50 million, when bribes to prison employees and government officials are included, said Pablo Escobar's top hit man,Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez.

Attorney General's OfficeAs with all drug-related finances, the true value of Guzmán's escape has not been quantified or verified.

"Listen, it's a black market for these things," Walter Lopez, the president of the College of Civil Engineers in Sinaloa, told The New York Times in reference to the cost of the escape. "Getting it exact is impossible," said Lopez.

According to Excelsior, the Mexican attorney general's office sourced $123,800 (more than 2 million pesos) in payments related to the escape.

Federal investigators provided Mexican legislators with the following figures (according to Excelsior):

  • $24,320 (400,000 pesos) for the construction of the house where the tunnel led to

  • $91,200 (1.5 million pesos) for the plot of land on where the house was built

  • $10,340 (170,000 pesos) paid to a pilot who flew Guzmán after the escape (the amount paid to another pilot, who flew a decoy plane is unknown)

El Economista reported the same payments as Excelsior, with the addition of a $10,340 (170,000 pesos) payment given to the ownersof an airstrip in San Juan del Río in Querétaro, where Guzmán's plane taxied before flying to Sinaloa

El Economista's report put the total cost of the escape at approximately $133,900 (2.24 million pesos).

El Economista also notes that the price of machinery and labor for Guzmán's tunnel has not been quantified, nor have the details reported by El Economista and Excelsior been verified.

'El Chapo' Guzmán's financiers

A Mexican businessman named Manuel Trillo Hernández has been arrested, and Mexican authorities have accused him of financing the escape.

Attorney General's OfficeTrillo Hernández was arrested on August 19 in Puebla state in central Mexico and then held so he could be investigated for his connection to the escape.

Investigators say he "presumably financed the escape" of the Sinaloa cartel chief, and Trillo Hernández is also accused of using false identities and "shell companies" to purchase goods for the cartel between 2012 and 2015.

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An owner of restaurants and exchange houses and, allegedly, an old friend of Guzmán, Trillo Hernández has since been locked in the very same jail Guzmán broke out of.

Also arrested in late October was Oscar Manuel Gomez, who is believed to be the "mastermind" of the escape and reportedly managed the payments described above.

The investigators also linked Manuel Gomez to several high-profile figures in the drug underworld.

According to Excelsior's report, Manuel Gomez worked with Vicente Zambada Niebla, a relative of Adelmo Niebla González, known as El G-3, a lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel who tunneled out of a Mexican prison just 14 months before Guzmán did the same.

Manuel Gomez has previously worked for Eduardo Arellano Félix, the Tijuana cartel boss who warred with the Sinaloa clan before being arrested in 2008 and extradited to the US.

Manuel Gomez also worked for several Sinaloa network figures related to Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, who, along with Guzmán, helped make the Sinaloa cartel the most powerful in the Western Hemisphere.

"El Mayo," who directs Sinaloa's operations in Colombia, is regarded as "one of the most storied traffickers in Mexico."

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