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Mexican 'drug lord' on rich list

By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Mexico City

Joaquin Guzman. Photo: 2005
The US is offering a $5m reward for Joaquin Guzman's capture

Forbes magazine's latest list of the world's billionaires includes Mexico's most wanted man - Joaquin Guzman.

The 54-year-old, who is said to be the head of one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels, is 701st on the list with an estimated fortune of $1bn (£722m).

Mr Guzman, who escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001, is understood to be at large in Mexico or Central America.

Mexican officials blame much of the recent violence in the north of the country on Mr Guzman.

'Charismatic'

Forbes estimates that last year Mexican and Colombian traffickers made between $18bn (£13bn) and $39bn (£28bn).

Mr Guzman's slice of that pie comes from his assumed control of the Sinaloa cartel, which is named after the Mexican state in which it is based.

BILLIONAIRES IN 2009
Total number: 793 (1,125 in 2008)
Net worth: $2.4tn ($4.4tn in 2008)
Women: 72 (99 in 2008)
Average age: 63.7 (61 in 2008)

For over a year the Sinaloa Cartel has been trying to oust a rival gang from the border city of Ciudad Juarez; the turf war has left more than 2,000 people dead.

Those who have met Mr Guzman, who stands at just 5 feet tall (152cm), describe him as a man of extraordinary charisma and intelligence.

In 2001, he escaped from a Mexican jail in a laundry truck, having apparently charmed, and bribed the entire prison staff.

His wedding in 2007 to his 18-year-old wife was so heavily guarded that the Mexican army did not attempt to arrest the groom.

Mr Guzman is not the first alleged drug runner to have made it into the illustrious ranks of the Forbes list of billionaires.

In 1989, Colombia's Pablo Escobar was ranked the 7th richest man in the world, with $25bn (£18bn) to his name.

There is no sign that global drug consumption is falling. And as long as the demand remains, fortunes will be made.



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