Let’s Make El Chapo Pay for President Trump’s Border Wall

January 27, 2017, 6:05 PM UTC

President Trump’s idea for a 20% import tax to pay for a Mexico border wall isn’t making anyone happy. Even though he claims it would force Mexicans to shoulder the cost, critics say American consumers would pay more for avocados, tequila, and cars.

But there may be a better solution.

Assuming the wall is a good idea in the first place (a dubious proposition), Trump could drop his request for Mexico to pay for it, and instead ask a single Mexican citizen to foot the bill: drug lord El Chapo.

Think about it. The deposed narco, who is cooling his heels in a New York prison cell, must forfeit $14 billion in drug-related assets, according to the Justice Department, which filed charges last week. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan says President Trump’s border wall will cost between $12 billion and $15 billion.

That’s a near perfect offset, and a win-win for America. Donald Trump could make good on his promise to make Mexico pick up the tab, and no one would have to pay more for guacamole.


But while the El Chapo Memorial Wall is grand in theory, we admit there are a few holes in the foundation.

For one thing, it’s not clear that the cartel king, whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, actually has $14 billion worth of assets to seize. As with many legitimate business enterprises, much of El Chapo’s revenue got chewed up in operation costs, and his real fortune might be more like $2 billion to $4 billion, according to Forbes.

Then there’s the fact that Uncle Sam isn’t the only one who wants El Chapo’s money. Some politicians in Mexico, which shipped the prisoner to New York last week, claim their country should receive his fortune to pay for the damage he has caused.

According to Michael Zweiback, a former prosecutor who now works at the law firm Alston & Bird, U.S. forfeiture procedures allow other countries to ask for a share of the proceeds if they helped with the investigation. But in this case, President Trump could decree any portion of the funds owed to Mexico be used for something else—like a wall.

Regardless of the split, if it turns out El Chapo does have $14 billion in assets, it will be a slog to find them. Zweiback says the drug lord’s funds are likely scattered across numerous banks in South America and Asia, so it could take the feds years to track them all down.

But this could be an opportunity for President Trump to strike his most famous deal yet: In exchange for telling us where all his money is, the U.S. could grant El Chapo exclusive naming rights on the border wall for the duration of his life sentence. And since he’ll be staring at four walls for some time to come, Mexico’s most notorious drug dealer might jump at the chance to put his own name on one.

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