Sunday March 24, 2013 AT 8:00 PM ET/PT on CBC News Network
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Narco Bling explores the Mexican drug lord's lust for luxury. It's a behind-the-scenes look at some of the world's most wanted criminals, their opulent lifestyles and how Mexico is fighting a battle against a rich and powerful enemy - the drug cartels.
With access to the seized riches and weaponry of the drug lords, Narco Bling reveals a world of astonishing wealth and extravagance. It's a world dominated by the Sinaloa Cartel and its leader, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, one of the world's most wanted and powerful criminals. Expert accounts of the cartel's trafficking networks, and a boots-on-the-ground perspective of law enforcement on both sides of the border, show how Mexico's drug cartels have become a $40 billion a year global industry and why the war to stop them has no end in sight.
The documentary takes us inside a live government auction of seized "narco-bling" - a treasure trove of gaudy status symbols of Mexican drug lords. This "bling" gives us insight into the life of Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman who is accused of importing chemicals from China for the production of methamphetamine, the newest offering in the Sinaloa Cartel's product line. In addition to the riches on auction, Ye Gon's mansion was found to have $205 million in cash stashed inside. And yet, Ye Gon is considered only a minor player in El Chapo's operation.
Money means not only riches, but also weaponry for the Sinaloa Cartel. At the Mexican military's gun warehouse in the heart of drug country - Sinaloa state – we see a row of blinged-out firearms, some seized from members of El Chapo's cartel.
Money also means impunity. This is particularly true for El Chapo and other leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel. Despite his humble origins, El Chapo controls a vast drug distribution empire that spans six continents. He has managed to evade authorities for more than a decade since a prison break in 2001. Using unique graphic novel-inspired animation, Narco Bling tells the story of that escape from a maximum security prison. Some believe that money has made him "untouchable" and that he isn't even in hiding. But it's hard to separate the man from the myth. An army officer reports that El Chapo is like a saint, with sightings of him reported throughout Mexico.
With riches, weaponry, and apparent impunity, El Chapo's influence extends far beyond the Mexican border. Some 80 percent of the meth that is sold in the U.S. comes from Mexico and much of that is under the control of the Sinaloa Cartel. In Calexico, California and its surroundings, working with Border Protection agents and an elite narcotics task force, Narco Bling shows the drug war in action along one of El Chapo's smuggling routes – exposing a complex trafficking network and the major cartel narco who managed it all from a sprawling ranch in Sinaloa.