Mexico probes if actress's company got money from El Chapo

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Mexican authorities have found "signs" that drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman invested in the tequila business of actress Kate Del Castillo, the attorney general said in an interview published Tuesday, January 19.

But Mexico's chief prosecutor, Arely Gomez, told El Universal newspaper that US actor Sean Penn is not being investigated over his October meeting with Guzman, which Del Castillo arranged.

Gomez said her office is examining whether Guzman gave illegal funds to Del Castillo's Tequila Honor company, a crime that, if proven, would amount to money laundering.

"There are signs, but we need legal certainty," she said.

Prosecutors have called Del Castillo, a 43-year-old US-Mexican TV star, to testify as a witness over her links to Guzman, 58.

The actress, known for her role as a drug lord in the TV series "The Queen of the South," has the option of speaking to the authorities at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles, where she resides.

The actress has come under scrutiny since it was revealed last week that she exchanged affectionate text messages with Guzman and brokered the meeting between Penn and the Sinaloa drug cartel leader.

She wrote on Twitter last week that the reports about her "aren't truthful" and that she would soon tell her side of the story.

El Universal published text messages on Monday, January 18, that were allegedly exchanged between one of Guzman's attorneys and Del Castillo, in which they apparently discuss the possibility of the drug lord participating in her tequila company before his July prison break.

A company named Tequila Honor LLC was registered in the US state of Delaware in September 2014. The actress promotes her company's brand, Honor Del Castillo, on her website.

The US Treasury Department forbids American citizens and companies from conducting financial transactions with designated drug suspects.

Asked by Agence France-Presse if Del Castillo or her tequila company were under investigation, the department said in an emailed statement that it does "not comment on sanctions enforcement or claims about potential sanctions violations."

Penn off the hook

Gomez said authorities are also investigating who paid for the plane and the logistics for the trip to see Guzman in October.

Penn wrote about the meeting with Guzman in an undisclosed "jungle" clearing in Mexico for Rolling Stone magazine.

The US actor said the then-fugitive wanted Del Castillo to help him make a biopic about his life.

Gomez said authorities are looking into whether Guzman financed a film, but that Penn "is not being investigated for anything."

Asked about reports that US director Oliver Stone may have been involved, Gomez said that there are "no accusations against him."

Guzman was recaptured on January 8 in Los Mochis, a seaside city in his northwestern home state of Sinaloa, 6 months after his brazen tunnel escape from a maximum-security prison.

Authorities say the discovery of Guzman's meeting with the actors in October, subsequent military operations in his mountain stronghold and the drug lord's desire to see Del Castillo again contributed to his arrest. – Laurent Thomet, AFP / Rappler.com