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El Chapo trial: Witness says he gave $100,000 bribe to general

A former Mexican cartel member is testifying for the US government at the Brooklyn, New York City trial of the notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

Jesus Zambada detailed on Thursday how the Sinaloa cartel paid bribes, preferably in US dollars, to high-ranking police and other officials to protect its drug operation.

He said that in one instance, Guzman directed him to give $100,000 ($A138,000) and a hug to a general.

On Wednesday, Zambada 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.

Defence lawyers say Guzman is being framed.

media_cameraJesus “El Rey” Zambada García, leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, his presented to the press in Mexico City has testified against his boss El Chapo. Picture: Alberto Vera/AFP

Zambada — a 57-year-old trained accountant who was arrested in 2008 and is still in US 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.

Appearing in a blue jail uniform and wearing tinted glasses, Zambada testified when special military forces were trying to hunt down Guzman in 2001 after a prison break, he was tasked with trying to find a spot where the cartel could land a helicopter for its boss.

“We were rescuing him … because the military was about to recapture him,” the witness said through a Spanish interpreter.

Zambada said for most of the 2000s, his brother, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and Guzman were considered the top leaders of the Sianola cartel as it imported large shipments of Colombian cocaine by land, sea and air to Mexico before using various means to get it to the US market.

media_cameraCourtroom sketch Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, centre, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that he amassed a multi-billion-dollar fortune smuggling drugs into the US. Picture: AP

A popular smuggling method involved stashing the drugs in containers hidden inside gas tanker trucks filled with fuel, he said.

As the cocaine was moved north, its profit potential skyrocketed, he said. A kilo purchased in Colombia for $3000 ($A4100) would fetch $20,000 ($A27550) in Los Angeles, $25,000 ($A34437) in Chicago and $35,000 ($A48212) in New York City, he said.

Zambada testified he ran a cartel warehouse in Mexico City that processed 80 to 100 tons of cocaine a year, a volume that that brought in “billions” in revenue. Through bribes, he claimed, “I controlled the airport in Mexico City. … Controlled the authority.” The testimony came on the second day of the trial in Brooklyn federal court, where Guzman pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking charges after being extradited to the US last year.

The defence has described the co-operating witnesses like Zambada as liars seeking to reduce their own sentences.

“They’re here because they want to get out of jail by any means necessary,” a member of Guzman’s defence team, Jeffrey Lichtman, said.

Originally published as El Chapo ‘ordered money and hug bribe’

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