The US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Wednesday removed Jesús “El Rey” Zambada, who had testified against Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, from its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. Sanctions had been placed on Zambada for his involvement in the drug cartel.
A department official stated that Zambada had shown behavioral change and was no longer carrying out activities that would be sanctionable. Zambada served as the head accountant for the Sinaloa cartel before testifying against “El Chapo” in late 2018 and early 2019.
Zambada’s brother and Guzmán were known to be the top leaders of the Sinaloa cartel. Zambada’s testimony against Guzmán in the latter’s trial was considered to be the key to Guzmán’s conviction. In his testimony, Zambada relayed how he had helped create plans for Guzman’s relocation after his 2001 escape from jail. Zambada also testified as to the cartel’s drug trafficking practices.
Guzmán, Zambada and other Sinaloa leaders were indicted by a grand jury in 2009 for numerous charges, including international cocaine trafficking and continuing criminal enterprise. After his extradition to the US, Zambada pleaded guilty to the charges. At the time of Guzmán’s trial, Zambada was serving a jail sentence. The US Bureau of Prisons has since indicated that Zambada is not in its custody, leading many to believe he is in a witness protection program.
Guzmán received a sentence of life in prison and an order to forfeit US$ 12.6 billion in 2019. He is serving his sentence at ADX Florence, a super-maximum prison in Colorado.