Fugitive Drug Lord Makes Forbes' Billionaire List
March 12, 2009 - 4:47 AM<br />
The magazine estimates Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's worth at $1 billion -- No. 701 on the list, right between a Swiss oil-trading tycoon and a U.S. chemical heir. Dozens of other people were also tied for the spot.
It is unclear what Guzman thinks of the distinction. Forbes senior editor Luisa Kroll notes that "unfortunately ... Guzman could not be reached for comment."
Often described as Mexico's most powerful cartel kingpin, Guzman has been on the run with a $5 million reward on his head since 2001, when he escaped from prison apparently hidden in a laundry truck.
At the time, he was serving more than 20 years for criminal association and bribery. Mexican officials say he leads the Sinaloa drug gang, though Guzman has never been convicted on drug trafficking charges.
The government had no immediate comment on the listing, which includes an old photo of Guzman taken under police custody while wearing rumpled prison clothes unbefitting the world's alleged 701st-richest person.
Guzman, 54, is not the first drug trafficker to make the list; Forbes says Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar was once included, before dying in a shootout with the South American nation's security forces in 1993.
"El Chapo," whose nickname refers to his short, stocky build, has been enjoying a bit of notoriety lately. Telemundo, the No. 2 Spanish-language television network in the United States, announced last year that it is working on a new docudrama based on Guzman's life.
Forbes cited estimates that Guzman and his operation likely grossed 20 percent of the $18 billion to $39 billion in drug revenues that Mexican and Colombian traffickers laundered last year -- "enough for him to have pocketed $1 billion over his career and earn a spot on the billionaires list for the first time."
That figure, Kroll said, "is a conservative estimate based on the information we have."
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