Mexican Drug Lord 'El Chapo' Gave Interview to Sean Penn

The interview for Rolling Stone came while drug lord was on the run.

ByABC News
January 10, 2016, 9:25 AM

— -- Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman gave an interview to actor Sean Penn in October, while he was a fugitive after escaping from a Mexican prison, according to an article the actor wrote for Rolling Stone.

The interview for Rolling Stone was conducted over a seven-hour meeting, and in follow-up interviews over the phone and in video, Penn says in the article.

Mexican government sources told ABC News that Penn and Kate del Castillo, the Mexican actress who Penn says helped arrange the meeting, are under investigation for their "interview" with Guzman.

U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the Rolling Stone story and whether Penn's interview led authorities to El Chapo. The DEA and U.S. Marshals have not responded to ABC’s request for comment.

According to the article, Guzman met Penn in his hideout in Mexico months before his recapture by Mexican marines in his home state of Sinaloa.

Penn says the meeting was arranged with help of Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, with whom he says Guzman was corresponding in an effort to get "the story of his life told on film."

Of his first impressions of Guzman, Penn says: "My mind is an instant flip book to the hundreds of pictures and news reports I had scoured. There is no doubt this is the real deal. He's wearing a casual patterned silk shirt, pressed black jeans, and he appears remarkably well-groomed and healthy for a man on the run."

When the actor asked Guzman at the time about life after escaping and being free, Guzman responded: "Well, as for being free – happy, because freedom is really nice, and pressure, well, for me it's normal, because I've had to be careful for a few years now in certain cities, and, no, I don't feel anything that hurts my health or my mind. I feel good."

Penn writes that when he asked Guzman who is to blame for drug trafficking, the drug lord said: "If there was no consumption, there would be no sales. It is true that consumption, day after day, becomes bigger and bigger. So it sells and sells."

The actor also recalls about receiving a tip that the DEA became aware of his trip to Mexico. "Booking any flight to Mexico now would surely raise red flags," he writes. "I make a plan to hide myself in the trunk of a friend's car and be driven to a waiting rental vehicle."

The interview, posted online Saturday evening, included the disclosure: "Some names have had to be changed, locations not named, and an understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject’s approval before publication. The subject did not ask for any changes."

Neither representatives for Penn nor Rolling Stone have responded to requests for comment from ABC News.

Guzman was captured Friday after months on the run, and was sent back to the same prison he escaped from in July.

He escaped from the Altiplano prison near Mexico City July 11, launching an active manhunt. When guards realized that he was missing from his cell, they found that a ventilated tunnel had been constructed and had an exit via the bathtub inside Guzman's cell. The tunnel extended for about a mile underground and featured an adapted motorcycle on rails that officials believe was used to transport the tools used to create the tunnel, Monte Alejandro Rubido, the head of the Mexican national security commission, said in July.

Guzman had been sent to Altiplano after he was arrested in February 2014. He spent more than 10 years on the run. after escaping from a different prison in 2001. It's unclear exactly how he had escaped, but he did receive help from prison guards who were prosecuted and convicted.

Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, was once described by the U.S. Treasury as "the most powerful drug trafficker in the world." The Sinaloa cartel allegedly uses elaborate tunnels for drug trafficking and has been estimated to be responsible for 25 percent of all illegal drugs that enter the U.S. through Mexico.

Guzman has also long been ranked among the richest men in the world by Forbes. Drug enforcement experts have conservatively estimated the cartel's revenues at more than $3 billion annually.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.