Authorities in Mexico are trying to determine if Mexican actress Kate del Castillo accepted any money in connection with drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s plans to make a biopic about his life, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The 43-year-old actress is also being probed by Mexican officials for failing to notify authorities about her contact with the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel while he was on the run, said the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
Del Castillo helped broker an October meeting between Guzmán and actor Sean Penn, whose jungle interview with El Chapo was published by Rolling Stone Saturday after a dramatic raid by Mexican authorities lead to Guzman’s recapture.
Mexican officials have said Penn is also under investigation in connection with the interview, believed to be the first the drug lord has given in decades.
Bernardo Gomez, a security consultant with the Mexican Attorney General’s Office who has been briefed on the del Castillo probe, said authorities were trying to determine if she broke any laws in her dealings with Guzmán.
“Knowing that Guzmán is one of the most wanted men in the world, she agreed to meet up with him and did not alert the Mexican authorities,” Gomez said. “That is a cover-up.”
Authorities are looking into whether she was involved in any financial transactions with Chapo as part of his plans to make an autobiographical movie.
“In that case, she could be charged with money laundering,” Gomez explained.
Representatives for del Castillo did not respond to a request for comment.
Del Castillo is a popular Mexican actress best known for playing a drug kingpin in Telemundo’s La Reina Del Sur telenovela. A U.S. citizen, she lives in Los Angeles and also runs a U.S.-based production company.
The daughter of famed Mexican actor Eric del Castillo, she criticized the Mexican government in 2012 in a series of tweets over its handling of the drug war, and appealed directly to Guzmán, who is believed to be a billionaire, to use his wealth to do good.
“Today I believe more in El Chapo Guzmán than in the governments that hide the truth from me even though it is painful,” the actress wrote at the time.
Mexico City-based attorney and security expert Max Morales said whether authorities ultimately decide to charge the actress with cover-up could prove tricky.
Under Mexican law, Morales said, a witness who has knowledge of a fugitive’s whereabouts is obligated to share the information with authorities. However, there are exceptions. Some professions like priests, doctors, psychologists, lawyers and journalists are often not required to divulge information about their work.
He said del Castillo could argue she was involved in a journalism project and that she wasn’t aware of El Chapo’s exact location.
Morales said a cover-up can be a very vague term under Mexican law. “They didn’t facilitate his hiding, they were allegedly taken to a location they didn’t know for security reasons,” Morales said. In essence, del Castillo could argue she did not possess information on the drug lord’s whereabouts, he said.
Morales said because del Castillo is a U.S. citizen, she could also face potential legal troubles in the United States.
An agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the agency’s activities said American drug-fighting officials have been monitoring del Castillo for more than a year.
“We don’t have an open investigation against del Castillo, but we are looking into if she has some involvement in any illegal activity with Guzmán,” the agent said.
Gilbert Gonzalez, director of the Narcotics Officers Association and a former DEA agent who has been briefed by U.S. law enforcement about the Guzmán case, said the DEA is examining any possible contact between del Castillo and El Chapo’s lawyers.
It is unclear if U.S. or Mexican investigators will seek to subpoena del Castillo, or Penn.
Penn recently told The Associated Press he has “nothin’ to hide” when asked about the El Chapo interview.
Fusion reached out to his publicist for comment but did not receive a response.
In his Rolling Stone piece, Penn wrote about El Chapo’s plans to make a movie.
“He is interested in the movie business and how it works,” Penn wrote. “He was interested in seeing the story of his life told on film, but would entrust its telling only to Kate.”