El Chapo Trial Latest: Drug Lord's Son Betrays Father, Reveals Sprawling Criminal Empire

The son of an associate of infamous drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán has given evidence implicating his father in a Brooklyn court, as the wide-ranging trial against the alleged cartel chief continues.

Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of alleged cartel leader Ismael Zambada Garcia, took the stand Thursday to give more than five hours of testimony about the operations of the Sinaloa Cartel, for which he had long been groomed as a future leader.

Read more: El Chapo trial: Drug lord bribed DEA agents with prostitutes, apartments

According to The New York Times, Zambada provided detailed information on the group's smuggling routes, money-laundering schemes, bribery networks, wars and personal vendettas.

When asked by prosecution, "What does your dad do for a living?" Zambada answered simply, "My dad is the Sinaloa Cartel's leader."

Zambada's testimony was one of the most striking accounts since El Chapo's trial began at the Federal District Court in November. The 61-year-old is facing a 17-count indictment spanning a 25-year period. He has been charged with a number of crimes in six federal jurisdictions, including New York, Chicago and Miami.

If convicted, Guzmán could be sentenced to life in prison. U.S. prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty in order to secure his extradition from Mexico in 2017.

Zambada is the latest high-profile associate to give evidence on the activities of the Sinaloa Cartel, according to The Guardian. Others shed light on how the group exploited corruption, brutally eliminated rivals and ensured that their business empire remained staggeringly profitable.

Zambada—whose father remains at large and on the Drug Enforcement Administration's most wanted list—told jurors a number of stories about the smuggling and bribery operations conducted by his father and El Chapo.

They included shipping huge amounts of drugs in cars, trains, planes and even submarines. In one instance, Zambada claimed that his father and El Chapo transported a haul of drugs hidden beneath a shipment of frozen meat in a truck.

The lucrative drug trade brought the cartel members huge riches, which they used to bribe police officers, military officials and politicians to ensure their operations remained secure.

Zambada told the court his father's bribery budget often reached as high as $1 million per month. He said recipients included an army general in the Mexican defense department who earned a monthly salary of $50,000 from the cartel, as well as a personal guard of former Mexican President Vicente Fox.

"I started realizing how everything was done," Zambada told the court. "And little by little I started getting involved in my father's business."

Zambada came to oversee cocaine shipments from Colombia to Mexico and across the U.S. frontier to major cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.

He also told jurors he was once involved in a plot to get El Chapo's brother Arturo out of prison using a helicopter. Arturo was killed before the audacious effort could be launched.

He also claimed to have met a group of "high-level politicians" and representatives of Pemex, Mexico's national oil company, in 2007 to discuss a plot to smuggle 100 tons of cocaine using one of the firm's tankers.

But in 2009 he was arrested in a Mexican army raid in Mexico City and extradited to Chicago, where he was expected to face smuggling charges. But before his trial could begin, his lawyers claimed he had been working as a DEA spy for years, exchanging information about his criminal rivals for the freedom to run his business without interference.

The American government has denied any formal deal of this kind, but officials have admitted that Zambada met with agents. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in a secret hearing in Chicago.

El Chapo trial Brooklyn court
Police stand on duty for the start of jury selection for the El Chapo trial at Brooklyn Federal Court in New York, on November 5, 2018. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
El Chapo Trial Latest: Drug Lord's Son Betrays Father, Reveals Sprawling Criminal Empire | World