Forced into crime by brother’s fame: Jesus ‘El Rey’ Zambada’s shift from accountant to drug trafficker

Unveiling the reluctant transformation of 'El Rey' Zambada, compelled into the cartel due to his brother 'El Mayo's' notoriety.

In the trials of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and former Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, one of the key witnesses was Jesus “El Rey” Zambada, the accountant who was forced to leave his professional career and ended up in the world of drug trafficking by his brother Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, one of the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The younger brother of ‘El Mayo’ Zambada was captured in October 2008 in Mexico City in a trap set by the Beltran Leyva brothers; he was later extradited to the United States.

After presenting his testimony at the trial of ‘Chapo’ Guzmán in March 2020, ‘El Rey’ Zambada pleaded guilty to several drug trafficking-related crimes for which he received a 12-year sentence.

However, two weeks later, he negotiated with the authorities a reduction of his sentence and protection for his family, in exchange for collaborating with the US Attorney’s Office in all cases where required, according to information from the newspaper El País.

But how did ‘El Rey Zambada’ get his start in the drug trade?

El Rey Zambada revealed during Genaro García Luna’s trial that he entered the world of drug trafficking because of his brother El Mayo’s fame. What happened?

That time he revealed not only the alleged millionaire bribes he paid to the Security Secretary during the government of Felipe Calderón in exchange for shielding the Sinaloa Cartel but also other information about his private life, according to journalist Keegan Hamilton.

In his testimony, 61-year-old ‘El Rey’ said that he was not interested in his brother’s operations, and to keep himself away, he worked as an accountant in Mexico City. However, he lost his job when ‘El Mayo’ began to gain fame as a drug trafficker.

“Rey tried to say he never wanted to get involved in the cartel, but he lost his job as an accountant when his brother El Mayo became known as a drug lord,” Hamilton recounted.

When Zambada was questioned about the millions of dollars he began earning once inside the Sinaloa Cartel, he responded, “When you look at it, it was my destiny.”

With information from El País, BCC, and journalist Keegan Hamilton of Vice.