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'El Chapo' found guilty in US

February 12, 2019

Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman has been convicted by a New York jury on all 10 counts. After six days of deliberations, it found him guilty of operating an industrial-scale smuggling enterprise.

Mexiko, Mexiko City: Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
Image: picture-alliance/AP/E. Verdugo

Tuesday's verdict delivered by jurors, whose names were kept secret at the three-month Brooklyn trial, could put Joaquin Guzman behind bars for the rest of his life.

He was convicted on all 10 counts pending, including "engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise" and conspiracy to commit murder.

As the verdict was read, Guzman showed no emotion. He and his wife later gave each other the "thumbs-up" sign.

Read more: Drug cartels battle over profits

Guzman, 61, whose nickname "El Chapo" translates roughly as "Shorty," had been extradited to the United States for trial in 2017 after being arrested the year before in Mexico as the leader of its notorious Sinaloa Cartel.

Guzman had twice escaped Mexican prisons before extradition after rising from poverty to run the global narcotics empire.

Sentencing was scheduled by the US District Court for June 25. 

Previously, US prosecutors have ruled out seeking the death penalty as a condition of Guzman's extradition from Mexico.

US Attorney Richard Donoghue described Tuesday's conviction as Guzman's "day of reckoning" and said there was more to come.

Grisly killings, payoffs

The trial jury heard testimony of grisly killings, political payoffs and evidence of drugs pouring into the USA since the 1980s via secret tunnels and concealed in vehicles  that earned profits worth billions.

New York Prozess gegen Drogenboss Joaquin «El Chapo» Guzman
Artist's depiction: 'El Chapo' at the trial start in NovemberImage: picture-alliance/dpa/E. Williams

Prosecutors said at least 200 tons of cocaine were smuggled over two decades.

Witnesses included more than a dozen defectors from the cartel based in Sinaloa, his home state in northwestern Mexico.

A former bodyguard testified that he watched Guzman kill three rival drug cartel members.

'Fall guy,' claims defense

His defense lawyers had argued that Guzman was set up as a "fall guy" by another narcotics figure from Sinaloa state, Ismael Zambada, who remains at large.

On conviction, they said they were "obviously disappointed," but respectful of the jury's decision. One defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said the verdict would be appealed.

The trial's vast scope left jurors tasked with making 53 decisions about whether prosecutors had proven different elements of the case.

Judge Brian Cogan lauded the jury for its meticulous attention to detail and "remarkable" handling of deliberations.

The court heard Guzman's sing-song voice in recordings of intercepted phone calls.

He was cast in media coverage as the world's most notorious drug boss since Colombia's Pablo Escobar was shot dead by police in 1993.

Mexico mired

Mexico has been mired for 12 years in a deadly military-led war against drug gangs. About 150,000 deaths have been attributed since 2006 to organized crime.

New President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected last year, he has suggested a negotiated peace and amnesty for non-violent drug dealers, traffickers and farmers.

ipj/msh (AP, Reuters)

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