Published: Thu, November 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

El Chapo's US drugs trial kicks off under tight security

El Chapo's US drugs trial kicks off under tight security

The trial of extradited Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is set to begin on Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, where he is facing drug trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Guzman, who allegedly continued to run the world's largest drug-trafficking operation even while behind bars in Mexico, now faces the possibility of life imprisonment in the United States.

El Chapo pleaded not guilty to all the crimes against him - global drug trafficking, gun charges, money laundering, and more. Natasha Hussain has the details.

The names of the witnesses have been blacked out on court documents with prosecutors saying their identities need to be protected because their co-operation could put them in the crosshairs of a vengeful cartel.

Opening statements are expected to begin November 13.

Security for the trial is expected to be high, and not just for Guzman who escaped twice from Mexican prisons.

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Guzman, 61, has been in solitary confinement since being extradited to the United States from Mexico in January 2017.

Federal prosecutors say from January 1989 to December 2014, Guzman's cartel was responsible for importing and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and killed those who threatened the enterprise.

El Chapo - "Shorty", for his 5-foot-6 stature - has been an iconic figure in the drug trade for decades. He was recaptured in Mexico in February 2014. In the Philippines, a recent arrest of a cop using cocaine inside a bar during a Halloween party has led the Philippine National Police to believe that the cartel has penetrated the domestic market through the Asian Triad. Guzman sat at the defence table listening through an interpreter and wearing street clothes - a dark suit and a white shirt with an open collar - instead of a jail uniform for the first time since he was extradited to the United States early past year. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says he was able to remain a force by communicating with his son and other cartel leaders through lawyers and others who visited him at the Altiplano prison outside Mexico City.

It is alleged that he spent a quarter of a century smuggling more than 155 tonnes of cocaine into the United States. "Guzman Loera made billions of illicit dollars".

A Mexican official told Reuters at the time that the move was a show of goodwill to incoming US President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated the next day, though Alberto Elias Beltran, Mexico's assistant attorney general for global affairs, denied any connection. McCoy reported from NY.

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