Joaqin Guzman, the notorious Mexican drug cartel boss known under nickname ‘El Chapo’ is to face life in jail after a US court found him guilty on all charges in a high-profile narcotics trial.
Jurors in a federal court in Brooklyn have delivered a guilty verdict on all 10 charges in a high point of the 11-week long trial, with several of the carrying a life sentence. He was accused of trafficking tons of illicit drugs on several separate occasions, organizing a murder conspiracy and illegal use of firearms.
The 61-year-old was a key player in the Mexican drug cartel landscape. Unlike other people in a similar position, Guzman would not plead guilty and went for a public trial after being extradited to the US. The proceeding involved over 50 witnesses and gave a unique insight into the working of the Sinaloa Cartel, which he used to control.
The man’s former associates, including a bodyguard, several lieutenants and a mistress, told the court about his large-scale criminal enterprise that was as complex as a big international corporation. He used elaborate cross-border tunnels to smuggle drugs to the US, detailed accounting of criminal proceeds, encrypted communication through Canada-based servers and an entire fleet of vehicles.
The cartel relied heavily on corruption in Mexico, with bribes paid to officials allegedly including the former president, Enrique Pena Nieto, as well as violence against both competition and the law enforcement.
Guzman’s personal lifestyle was a mixture of excesses in things, personal habits and sex – including victimizing minor girls for presumed rejuvenation – and tight security that required dozens of guards and constant change of hideouts to avoid arrest.
The defense team called only one witness and was trying question the credibility of prosecution witnesses during the trial. His lawyers say Guzman is not a criminal mastermind but just a fall guy for the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
The international notoriety of Guzman was boosted by two escapes from Mexican custody, one in 2001 and another one in 2015 – through a 1.5km underground tunnel large enough to ride a motorcycle.