Actress Accused of Laundering El Chapo’s Cash
Did Kate del Castillo Go Gangster to Launch Tequila Brand?
Kicking off the New Year actor Sean Penn, best known for his roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Milk and Dead Man Walking, published a story in Rolling Stone that featured an interview he conducted with the infamous Mexican drug lord, El Chapo, entitled El Chapo Speaks. The story quickly went viral, mostly because of the fact that El Chapo was on the run from authorities at the time and considered ‘the most wanted man in the world’, but also because he has become almost a mythical figure in a society obsessed by fame, and was interviewed by someone almost as famous.
As a result, Sean Penn story nearly broke the Internet. With words.
Immediately questions were raised about how Penn could arrange a meeting that the authorities could not, even though it was revealed in the story that Mexican actress Kate del Castillo orchestrated it. Who is del Castillo? There are rumors that she is El Chapo’s mistress, but she is best known publicly for, ironically, playing a drug lord on the Telemundo Network’s long running series, The Queen of the South.
According to the Mexican newspaper El Universal, Mexico Attorney General Arely Gomez said in an interview published last week that, “there are reasons to believe actress Kate del Castillo may have used Guzman’s money to help fund her tequila business.”
The evidence in this case points to a text message exchange between El Chapo, his attorney and del Castillo, in which the attorney suggests that El Chapo should invest in del Castillo’s new tequila brand, Honor del Castillo. The text messages were published by the Mexican newspaper Milenio shortly after El Chapo’s arrest. If convicted, del Castillo could face prison time and substantial fines, ultimately killing her career. Yet, it seems all the evidence has not been analyzed yet.
If funding her Tequila business leads to a money laundering charge, then what about the biopic she was planning to produce about El Chapo? Certainly, his dirty money would have funded the film too? All of this comes at a bad time for del Castillo, who was just about to start filming for a Spanish-language series that had been commissioned by Netflix.
Did the Mexican authorities jump the gun in terms of labeling del Castillo a money launderer to the media? I would say yes. They are likely looking for a scapegoat and a reason to punish someone high-profile for their own lack of ability to track El Chapo down, so they have chosen her. However, once everything comes out in the wash del Castillo will likely walk with a light sentence and fine. Her acting career, however, may be over by then.
This case just goes to show how insidious money laundering really is. Had El Chapo, the attorney and del Castillo kept this conversation private and encrypted there is a really good chance the authorities would have no case against the actress, therefore no need to destroy her reputation and career. Per the trends we see in money laundering cases, when there is no evidence or witnesses there is no one to prosecute.
The question then becomes, why did El Chapo let down his guard in such a manner? El Chapo has successfully laundered billions of dollars in illicit drug money over the years without being tracked and would seemingly know better than to text message about funding a ‘friend’s’ business. Was it the fog of love for del Castillo that skewed his judgment? No, I think his hubris and love for Hollywood made him drop his guard, which set the table for whatever happens next; a trial that will require hundreds of lawyers just to sort out El Chapo’s money trail.
As for del Castillo, I hope she receives a fair trial.