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Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' Guzman is extradited to US

Agencies | Updated: 2017-01-20 09:40
Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' Guzman is extradited to US

Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico January 8, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

MEXICO CITY  — Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most notorious cartel kingpin who twice made brazen prison escapes and spent years on the run as the country's most wanted man, was extradited to the US Thursday to face drug trafficking and other charges.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department announced Guzman was handed over to US authorities for transportation to the US on Thursday, the last full day of President Barack Obama's administration and a day before Donald Trump is to be inaugurated.

The US Justice Department issued a statement confirming that Guzman was en route to the United States and expressed gratitude to Mexico for its cooperation.

A senior US official said the US Drug Enforcement Administration took custody of Guzman in Ciudad Juarez, which is across the border from El Paso, Texas, and a plane carrying him departed for New York at 5:31 p.m. EST. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and agreed to give the information only if not quoted by name.

The convicted boss of the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world's largest drug trafficking organizations, had been held most recently at a prison near Ciudad Juarez. He was recaptured a year ago after escaping from a second maximum-security prison through a tunnel dug to his cell.

The 2015 escape was highly embarrassing for the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, and Mexican officials were seen as eager to hand the headache off to the United States afterward. Guzman's lawyers have fought extradition since his recapture.

"It was illegal. They didn't even notify us," said lawyer Andres Granados, who accused the government of extraditing his client to distract from nationwide gasoline protests. "They handled it politically to obscure the situation of the gas price hike. It's totally political."Guzman, who is in his late 50s, faces the possibility of life in a US prison under multiple indictments in six jurisdictions around the United States, including New York, San Diego, Chicago and Miami.

A federal indictment in the Eastern District of New York, where Guzman is expected to be prosecuted, accuses him of overseeing a trafficking cartel with thousands of members and billions of dollars in profits laundered back to Mexico. It says Guzman and other members of the Sinaloa cartel employed hit men who carried out murders, kidnappings and acts of torture.

He was indicted by a US federal grand jury in July 2009. A superseding indictment was issued in May charging him and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada with a variety of drug, gun and money laundering charges as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.

The Mexican Foreign Relations Department's statement said a court had ruled against Guzman's appeal and found that his extradition would be constitutional.

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