Surveillance photos surfaced Monday revealing just how close an eye Mexican authorities had on Sean Penn when he journeyed south of the border to interview fugitive drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The grainy pictures, posted online by the Mexican newspaper El Universal, show the two-time Oscar winner wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap and a scruffy beard ahead of his seven-hour meeting with the head of the feared Sinaloa Cartel.
In one shot, Penn is seen strolling through an airport terminal, while another shows him and Mexican soap-opera star Kate del Castillo — who brokered the sit-down — at the Villa Ganz boutique hotel in Guadalajara, greeting some men involved in their further transport.
Other images reportedly depict one of two small airplanes that ferried Penn and Castillo to Mexico’s drug-producing “Golden Triangle” region, as well as a crude airstrip from which the craft took off.
Many of the 10 photos appear to have been shot at a distance with a telephoto lens, and some are labeled to identify del Castillo and other people.
El Universal said the pictures were contained in a Mexican government intelligence file that it obtained.
In his 10,000-word article for Rolling Stone, Penn described taking elaborate precautions to evade authorities, including using individual “burner” phones to communicate with various people involved in the arrangement.
But he noted — presciently, it turned out — that as he flew to meet El Chapo, “I see no spying eyes, but I assume they are there.”
In an e-mail exchange with The Associated Press, Penn said of the pictures: “I’ve got nothin’ to hide.”
Penn also denied a suggestion that he was “taking hits” for having agreed to let El Chapo sign off on his report before it was posted online Saturday.
“No, you’re reading hits,” Penn told AP. Rolling Stone has said that El Chapo didn’t demand any changes to Penn’s prose.
Mexican authorities have said Penn’s October meeting with El Chapo helped lead to the drug lord’s capture on Friday, six months after he broke out of a maximum-security prison, but Penn insisted he didn’t think his communications were tracked.
Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez told a local radio station that investigators had followed the movements of one of El Chapo’s lawyers, not necessarily Penn or Castillo.
When asked if either actor was under investigation, Gomez said a “new line” of inquiry was underway, focused on whether they or El Chapo’s lawyers were involved in “covering up” for him, “or something bigger.”
On Monday, The Post exclusively reported that Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara was investigating Penn’s connections to El Chapo.
A former federal prosecutor said the actor had plenty to fear.
“The Mexican government is looking for [El Chapo]. U.S. authorities are looking for him. There is a law [that says] if someone is a fugitive you’re supposed to turn him in,” lawyer Elliot Wales said Monday.
“I think Penn has violated this law and can be charged with that.”