Actors Sean Penn and Kate de Castillo 'under investigation' over El Chapo interview

The Hollywood-worthy recapture of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman took a stunning turn Sunday as Mexican authorities sought to question US actor Sean Penn over his interview with the drug kingpin.

 

A federal official told AFP that the attorney general's office wanted to talk with Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo about their secretive meeting with Guzman in October, three months before his capture.

"That is correct, of course, it's to determine responsibilities," the official said on condition of anonymity, declining to provide more details.

A second federal official said it was unclear whether Penn and del Castillo, who brokered the meeting, had violated any Mexican law.

While a reporter could interview a drug cartel suspect, "they're not journalists," the official said.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough told CNN that Penn's meeting with Guzman "poses a lot of interesting questions for him and others involved in this so-called interview. We'll see what happens.

Sean Penn. Photo: Yahoo News.

Sources in the Mexican government told that Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who helped Penn set up the meeting, are now under investigation.

Del Castillo came into contact with Guzmán in 2012, after she declared support for him on social media, and wrote, "Today I believe more in Chapo Guzmán than in governments."

The pair reportedly met and Del Castillo has been "aggressively" trying to secure the biopic film rights to Guzmán's life story.

The US rock magazine Rolling Stone on Saturday published the interview that Guzman gave to the actors in an undisclosed jungle clearing in Mexico.

Despite Penn's cloak-and-dagger efforts to keep the gathering secret, a Mexican official told AFP that authorities found out about the meeting, which eventually helped them track down the Sinaloa drug cartel chief.

Guzman, 58, was arrested on Friday in a deadly military raid in the seaside city of Los Mochis, in his northwestern home state of Sinaloa.

Photo: Kate de Castillo Instagram.

Attorney General Arely Gomez said on Friday that Guzman had met with unnamed actors and producers to discuss making a biopic about himself and that it was part of a "new line of investigation."

Some legal experts, however, doubt that Penn could face charges in the United States or Mexico.

"I seriously doubt that charges will be brought against them even though Sean Penn took extraordinary steps to prevent authorities from using his phone to track the whereabouts of Chapo," said Mike Vigil, a former senior official at the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Floyd Abrams, a New York attorney known for his defense of journalists, said Penn did not violate any US laws.

"The fact that he's acting as a journalist, if anything, would be even more helpful in showing that he wasn't engaged in some conspiracy," he said

EARLIER: A photograph of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman meeting with actor Sean Penn has emerged, as Mexico claims the gangster's meeting with the actor helped authorities recapture him yesterday.

Guzman gave an interview to actor Sean Penn in October, while he was a fugitive after escaping from a Mexican prison, according to an article the actor wrote for Rolling Stone.

Officials are investigating Sean Penn and a Mexican actress over their meeting with Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman. Photo: Rolling Stone

The interview for Rolling Stone was conducted over a seven-hour meeting, and in follow-up interviews over the phone and in video, Penn says in the article.

According to other reports, the gangster's desire to have a biographical movie made about himself led him to reach out the several actors and producers, which may have assisted in his capture.

Mexican government sources tell ABC News in the US that Penn and Kate del Castillo, the Mexican actress who Penn says helped arrange the meeting, are under investigation for their "interview" with Guzman.

According to AFP, the meeting between Penn and Guzman was a part of the investigation that helped lead to Friday's recapture of the world's most wanted criminal, an official said on condition of anonymity, declining to give more details.


"Mexican authorities had knowledge of this meeting," the official said after Rolling Stone magazine published an article written by the actor about his previously secret meeting with Guzman.

The US Department of Justice declined to comment on the Rolling Stone story and whether Sean Penn's interview led authorities to El Chapo.

According to the article, Guzman met Penn in his hideout in Mexico months before his recapture by Mexican marines in his home state of Sinaloa.

Penn says the meeting was arranged with help of Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, with whom he says Guzman was corresponding in an effort to get "the story of his life told on film."

Penn writes that when he asked Guzman who is to blame for drug trafficking, the drug lord said: "If there was no consumption, there would be no sales. It is true that consumption, day after day, becomes bigger and bigger. So it sells and sells."

The interview, posted online Saturday evening, included the disclosure: "Some names have had to be changed, locations not named, and an understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject’s approval before publication. The subject did not ask for any changes."

Guzman was captured Friday after months on the run, and was sent back to the same prison he escaped from in July.

He escaped from the Altiplano prison near Mexico City on July 11, launching an active manhunt. When guards realised that he was missing from his cell, they found that a ventilated tunnel had been constructed and had an exit via the bathtub inside Guzman's cell.

The tunnel extended for about a one-and-a-half kilometres underground and featured an adapted motorcycle on rails that officials believe was used to transport the tools used to create the tunnel, Monte Alejandro Rubido, the head of the Mexican national security commission, said in July.

Guzman had been sent to Altiplano after he was arrested in February 2014. He spent more than 10 years on the run.

After escaping from a different prison in 2001. It's unclear exactly how he had escaped, but he did receive help from prison guards who were prosecuted and convicted.

Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, was once described by the U.S. Treasury as "the most powerful drug trafficker in the world."

The Sinaloa cartel allegedly uses elaborate tunnels for drug trafficking and has been estimated to be responsible for 25 percent of all illegal drugs that enter the U.S. through Mexico.

Guzman has also long been ranked among the richest men in the world by Forbes. Drug enforcement experts have conservatively estimated the cartel's revenues at more than $3 billion annually.


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