Mexican drug lord El Chapo has been found guilty of 10 counts in his drug trafficking trial at federal court in New York. He had been arrested in January 2016, after escaping from a Mexican prison through a tunnel five months before. In 2017, El Chapo – real name Joaquin Guzmán – was extradited to the USA.
Who is El Chapo?
El Chapo was accused of being behind the Sinaloa drug cartel, which prosecutors say was the biggest supplier of drugs into the USA.
El Chapo – which means “Shorty” in Spanish – ran the Sinaloa Cartel in northern Mexico.
Among some in his home state, he had gained status as a folk hero, a popular topic of “narcocorridos” – musical tributes to drugs barons.
As his empire grew, Guzmán ranked 701 on the Forbes richest men list in 2009, possessing an estimated worth of $1bn (£775million).
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El Chapo GUILTY: The drug kingpin was found guilty of all 10 counts
Guzmán, who was found guilty of smuggling tonnes of drugs into the United States over a career spanning decades, is the highest profile Mexican drug cartel boss so far to stand trial in the USA.
What were El Chapo’s crimes?
El Chapo, 61, was convicted on all 10 counts against him, brought by US Prosecutors.
The US arraignment against him was a solidification of charges from six federal jurisdictions across the country, including New York, Chicago and Miami.
The world’s most infamous cartel boss was accused of conspiring to manufacture and distribute heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana as well as having aided the export of hundreds of tonnes of cocaine into the USA.
On Tuesday, February 12 a unanimous verdict was declared to a packed courtroom, following an 11-week trial.
But Guzman’s lawyers insist on his innocence, saying he was set up as a “fall guy” by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a powerful drug lord from Sinaloa.
Jeffrey Lichtman, a lawyer for Guzman, told reporters after the verdict the defence faced an uphill fight, given the amount of evidence the government presented, and the widespread perception that Guzman was already guilty.
“This was a case that was literally an avalanche, avalanche of evidence,” Lichtman said. “Of course we’re going to appeal.”
El Chapo guilty: El Chapo escaped from prison twice, before finally being captured in 2016
El Chapo’s reputation was built on deadly intimidation and violent turf wars as he rapidly transferred illicit shipments across continents.
Among those to testify against the drug kingpin were key associates, including former bodyguard Isaias Valdez Rios who told the court Guzmán beat two people who had joined a rival cartel until they were “completely like rag dolls”.
During another incident, he is said to have had a member of rival Arellano Felix cartel burned and imprisoned before bringing him to a graveyard, shooting him and ordering him to be buried alive.
Guzmán is also alleged to have had his own cousin killed for lying about being out of town, as well as arranging a hit on the brother of another cartel leader because he did not shake his hand.
El Chapo guilty: El Chapo gave a thumbs up to his wife in the courtroom
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When questioned by a former cartel lieutenant as to why he killed people, Guzmán is alleged to have said: “Either your mom’s going to cry or their mom’s going to cry.”
As well as his involvement in the drug trade, Guzmán gained notoriety for twice escaping from custody in Mexico, as well as his ability to avoid arrest on multiple other occasions.
The court also was told details of his 2015 escape from Mexico’s maximum-security Altiplano prison.
His sons obtained property close to the prison and a GPS watch smuggled into the jail gave diggers his exact location.
El Chapo GUILTY: Courtroom sketch shows El Chapo during his trial
Guzmán escaped by driving a specially adapted small motorcycle through the tunnel.
Hollywood actor Sean Penn interviewed Guzmán in a Mexican jungle in 2016, following his escape the previous year.
He boasted to the star that he was the world’s leading supplier of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.
He was later re-captured in the north-western town of Los Mochis when during the raid, he fled through a drain. He was later caught by officers in a shootout.