Drug kingpin Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman preferred US dollars he doled out his huge bribes to Mexican prosecutors, police, military and even Interpol to ensure smooth operations for his Sinaloa cartel, a key informant has told American jurors.
Jesus 'El Rey' Zambada, brother of the cartel's co-head Ismael 'El Mayo' Zambada, who remains at large, returned to the witness stand on Thursday for Guzman's federal trial in Brooklyn.
Jesus Zambada detailed the eye-watering costs of protecting cocaine shipments that originated in Colombia and traveled to the US via Mexico - with payments amounting to $300,000 per month in Mexico City alone.
He said that Guzman, 61, once directed him to give $100,000, along with a hug, to General Gilberto Toledano, in charge of the state of Guerrero.
In this courtroom sketch Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, center, sits next to his defense attorney Eduardo Balarezo, left, for opening statements in Brooklyn on Tuesday
Guzman (above in 2016 arrest) is accused of smuggling more than 155 tons of cocaine into the United States over 25 years and faces life in prison if found guilty
'I was going to import cocaine from Colombia through the state of Guerrero... and El Chapo told me 'Go and meet General Toledano, he's my friend, and give him $100,000 from me,'' Zambada said, wearing a blue prison suit with an orange shirt.
Guzman, wearing a dark suit and tie, listened attentively to the testimony of his former ally.
Zambada told the court that as the head of the organization's operations in the capital city, he personally paid bribes to the attorney general's office, the federal highway police that also operates bridges and airports, federal, state and local police forces, and 'Interpol, as well.'
'The bribes for officials in Mexico City were about $300,000 per month,' the 57-year-old said.
Jesus 'El Rey' Zambada is seen in 2008
Zambada, who worked for the cartel from 1987 until his arrest in 2008, was returning to the witness stand on the third day of a trial expected to last about four months.
On Wednesday, Zambada had identified Guzman in the courtroom and told jurors he 'was one of the most powerful drug traffickers in Mexico.'
The witness described how the cartel made massive profits by smuggling tons of cocaine into the United States.
Zambada - a 57-year-old trained accountant who was arrested in 2008 and is still in U.S. custody - was the first of several cooperators expected to give jurors an inside look at a cartel with a legendary lust for drugs, cash and violence.
The defense, which says Guzman is being framed, has described cooperating witnesses like Zambada as liars seeking to reduce their own sentences.
Despite his diminutive stature and nickname that means 'Shorty' in Spanish, Guzman was once a larger-than-life kingpin both feared and admired in Mexico.
The defense has sought to counter that reputation by portraying him as lesser figure in a drug gang.
During his opening statement this week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Feels, left, gestured to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, second from right, sitting next to his attorney Eduardo Balarezo
Emma Coronel, the beauty queen wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, arrives for his trial in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday
A motorcade believed to be transporting Guzman crosses the Brooklyn Bridge before arriving at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse for the first day of his trial on Tuesday
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors gave jurors a video tour of a sophisticated tunnel between Mexico and an Arizona warehouse that they said was used to speed drug deliveries to America.
The warehouse was just two blocks from a U.S. Customs office in the border city of Douglas.
Brought to the US almost 22 months ago, Guzman is accused of smuggling more than 155 tons of cocaine into the United States over 25 years and faces life in prison if found guilty.
His lawyers argue he has been scapegoated by Mexico's 'corrupt' government and the US Drug Enforcement Agency, and that the cartel's true chief was Ismael Zambada.