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Mexican mobster El Chapo convicted by NY jury

0 month ago, 13-Feb-2019


Guzman is shown shortly after extradition, in New York, US. Reuters photo

NEW YORK: Mexican mobster Joaquin El Chapo Guzman was convicted Tuesday of crimes spanning a quarter-century in a trial that laid bare his lavish lifestyle and penchant for extreme violence as the head of one of the worlds most powerful gangs.

The 61-year-old former boss of the notorious Sinaloa cartel famed for his brazen escapes from Mexican prisons faces life in prison for smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States.

He was also found guilty on money laundering and weapons possession charges during a three-month trial in which witnesses described the mob boss beating, shooting and even burying alive those who got in his way.

The verdict was a tremendous victory for the rule of law, for Mexico, the United States and other countries that have been victims of the Sinaloa cartel, Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, told AFP.

Chapo Guzman was the worlds greatest drug lord of all time, Vigil added.

He surpassed other drug lords, including Pablo Escobar.

In a statement, acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said the case demonstrated the extraordinary reach of the US government, our tenacity and commitment to pursuing kingpins like Guzman.

In a three-month trial that unfolded like a real-life telenovela, Guzmans ex-henchmen and a former mistress took the stand under the gaze of the stocky gangster, whose nickname is Spanish slang for shorty.

His young wife, onetime beauty queen Emma Coronel, showed up almost every day in court to be with her husband. After sentencing on June 25, Guzman is likely to be transferred to a so-called supermax prison in Colorado, sometimes called the Alcatraz of the Rockies and considered one of the most secure in the US.

His conviction is seen as a big win for the US, which failed to obtain the extradition of Escobar, the Colombian drug lord who was killed in a police operation in 1993. Guzmans lawyer Bill Purpura said his client had expected the verdict but was a guy who never gives up and had vowed to appeal.

Another attorney for Guzman, Eduardo Balarezo, tweeted his clients conviction will change nothing.

El Chapo was arrested in 2014. The war on drugs is a complete failure, he said.

During the trial, the government presented 56 witnesses and troves of incriminating material, including intercepted calls between Guzman and his associates, and conversations taped secretly by informants.

Some of the most eye-watering testimony came from a former hitman who offered gruesome details about acts of torture and killings of rivals personally carried out by his then boss. On another occasion, the court heard, Guzman beat two members of the Zetas cartel with a thick tree branch until their bones were broken before shooting them dead.

Guzman was not on trial for murder, but federal prosecutors attempted to depict him as a violent and ruthless man, ready to do anything to protect his business.

Former employees testified that the cartel paid bribes of millions of dollars at the highest levels of government, including to former President Enrique Pena Nieto, who denies the allegation.

The trial also offered a glimpse at the opulent lifestyle led by Guzman, who grew up in poverty.

The defence called just one witness, an FBI agent put on the stand in an attempt to undermine the credibility of one of Guzmans cocaine suppliers who had testified against him.

The defenses strategy centered on attacking the credibility of the cooperating witnesses former secretaries, pilots, cocaine suppliers, Guzmans top trafficker in the United States, a manager, an accountant, a former communications chief and a former lover.

Most are serving prison sentences and hoped to have their penalties reduced in return for their cooperation with prosecutors. AFP





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