The family of notorious drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán may stop funding his defense, a source with knowledge of the case told the newspaper El Universal.
The former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel was extradited to the United States in January last year where he faces 17 drugs and weapons-related charges.
The unnamed source said that Guzmán’s family members believe that his case is impossible to win and therefore see little reason to continue to pay expensive fees to the former capo’s lawyers.
Instead, they believe that the money can be better spent protecting the cartel’s current leadership group, including kingpin Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
According to the source, the family also cited a lack of direct access to Guzmán as further justification for the plan to cease bankrolling the case.
Since his extradition, Guzmán has been kept in a maximum-security prison in New York where he has had no contact with family members and former associates, making it impossible for him to advise them where to source the money needed to pay his lawyers.
For several months after he left Mexico, Guzmán was represented by public defenders but in August he hired two teams of lawyers, including one headed by high-profile attorney Jeffrey Lichtman.
However, the lawyer, who had previously represented New York mobster John Gotti Jr., ultimately decided to opt out of the chance to represent the famous drug boss, telling El Universal that his decision was based on the possibility that he would never be paid for his work.
That left the other team hired by Guzmán to take over the case.
Since the start of September another well-known criminal lawyer, Eduardo Balarezo, has been Guzmán’s private counsel and chief defense attorney.
The New York Times reported in November that Balarezo is working for a fraction of his normal fee and said that “prosecutors have declined to give assurances to Mr. Balarezo that any money will be left to pay him” after the case because the U.S. government intends to seize billions of dollars of illicit profits made by Guzmán.
On December 24, Balarezo requested that the starting date of the trial be postponed beyond the scheduled starting date of April 16 because “the defense team is insufficiently funded” to prepare for it.
Last month, the presiding judge agreed to reschedule the trial to September.
However, if Guzmán’s family goes ahead with the plan to pull the plug on its funding of the case, it could lead to Balarezo deciding to bail.
The trial will be heard by an anonymous jury and is expected to run for three to four months.