Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has pleaded not guilty in the US to charges that he ran the world’s largest drug-trafficking operation.
The Mexican drug lord was extradited from Mexico on January 19.
US prosecutors want an order to seize $14 billion of the head of the Sinaloa cartel’s assets.
In 2015, El Chapo Guzman famously escaped from a high-security prison through a tunnel – while being recorded on CCTV. He had fought against extradition since his recapture in early 2016.
Federal authorities have sought El Chapo Guzman for more than 20 years. He faces 17 charges including drug trafficking, illegal firearms use, money laundering, and smuggling cash across the border.
Ahead of his first appearance in a New York court, prosecutors revealed that they would seek the civil forfeiture of El Chapo Guzman’s assets to the amount of $14 billion – an indication of the extent of his empire.
US attorney Robert Capers said: “He’s a man known for no other life than a life of crime, violence, death and destruction. And now he’ll have to answer to that. That’s who Chapo Guzman is.”
Image source Vimeo
If convicted, El Chapo Guzman faces a mandatory life sentence.
Robert Capers also revealed that prosecutors were not aware the extradition was happening in advance.
He said: “Guzman’s story is not one of a do-gooder or a Robin Hood or even one of a famous escape artist who miraculously escaped from Mexican prisons on multiple occasions.
“Guzman’s destructive and murderous rise as an international narcotics trafficker is akin to that of a small cancerous tumor that metastasized and grew into a full blown scourge.”
His ability to evade capture made El Chapo Guzman stand out from other drug gang leaders.
His first high profile escape was in 2001 when it was reported – despite some doubts – that he had escaped from a maximum security prison by hiding in a laundry basket.
El Chapo was recaptured thirteen years later. But in 2015, he walked out of his cell through a cleanly-dug tunnel, while under video surveillance.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto had initially resisted extraditing El Chapo Guzman to the US, insisting that he should face justice at home.
However, after El Chapo Guzman was recaptured in January 2016, President Pena Nieto changed his mind on extradition and ordered officials to speed up the process.
El Chapo Guzman was extradited suddenly on January 19, arriving in New York on a flight from Ciudad Juarez.
Thirteen top serving and former prison officials have been arrested in Mexico over the escape of the notorious drugs lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from jail.
Mexico’s ex-head of federal prisons was among 13 people detained, sources close to the prosecutor said.
The ex-directors of the jail from which El Chapo Guzman fled were also reportedly held.
Investigators say El Chapo Guzman had inside help to ease his escape in July through a tunnel under a shower in his cell that ran one mile outside the prison.
It was the second escape from a maximum security prison for El Chapo Guzman, whose Sinaloa cartel is responsible for much of Mexico’s trafficking of drugs to the US.
At least seven officials, including two members of Mexico’s secret service and two prison control room employees, had already been arrested, accused of not raising the alarm once El Chapo Guzman had escaped.
The office of Mexico’s attorney general confirmed the 13 new arrests on September 18, but did not reveal the identity of the suspects.
However, the former national coordinator for Mexico’s prison system, Celina Oseguera, was named as one of the suspects, sources close to the prosecutor told the AFP.
Celina Oseguera was removed from her high-level post after El Chapo Guzman escaped on July 11.
Both directors of Altiplano prison, Valentin Cardenas and Lenor Garcia, who were also sacked after the escape, are also reportedly being held.
After his escape in July, El Chapo Guzman took to Twitter to taunt the police and insult Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Enrique Pena Nieto has promised that all those who had participated in the escape would be punished with “the full weight of the law”.
One point of controversy has been whether the Mexican government should have agreed to a US request to extradite El Chapo Guzman on the basis that American prisons would have been harder for Guzman to break out of.
First arrested in Guatemala in 1993, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman spent nearly a decade in another maximum-security Mexican jail before escaping, reportedly in a laundry basket.
El Chapo Guzman was on the run for 13 years before being held again in 2014 after a series of high-profile arrests of associates and covert surveillance by the US authorities.
Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman – Mexico’s top drug lord and one of the world’s most wanted drug baron – has been arrested in Mexico.
El Chapo (Shorty) Guzman was the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, which smuggles huge amounts of illegal drugs into the US.
He had been on the run since escaping a high-security prison in a laundry basket in 2001.
Mexican police arrested him in Sinaloa state, in a joint operation with US anti-drugs forces.
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto used his Twitter account to praise the forces involved in the arrest in the north-western resort of Mazatlan, in Sinaloa state.
Joaquin Guzman was taken to Mexico City and paraded before the media, before boarding a helicopter surrounded by heavily armed troops.
He was taken straight to prison, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said.
The US state department had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
US Attorney General Eric Holder described Shorty Guzman’s arrest as “a landmark achievement” for Mexico and “a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States”.
Joaquin El Chapo Guzman was the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, which smuggles huge amounts of illegal drugs into the US (photo Reuters)
Shorty Guzman has been indicted in the US on federal trafficking charges.
The Sinaloa cartel controls much of the flow of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine to the US.
Joaquin Guzman’s arrest is a big boost for the administration of Enrique Pena Nieto.
Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office just over two years ago, said he intended to change the “war on drugs” policy of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, which critics say led to a rise in violence throughout Mexico.
But Mexican police and troops have killed or arrested key figures in the drugs cartels since Enrique Pena Nieto came to power.
The US has also arrested several associates and relatives of Shorty Guzman.
In May 2012, the US Treasury Department put two of his sons – Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar and Ovidio Guzman Lopez – on its blacklist of drugs kingpins.
Their assets were frozen and US nationals and companies were prevented from doing business with them.
Shorty Guzman’s father-in-law, Ines Coronel, was arrested nearly a year ago. He was accused of smuggling drugs into the US.
Joaquin Guzman was born in the town of Badiraguato, probably 56 years ago, and became an important figure in the drug cartels in the 1980s.
Mexican government has admitted that it mistakenly identified Felix Beltran Leon as the son of the country’s most-wanted drugs lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
On Thursday officials paraded before the media a man they said was Jesus Alfredo Guzman, whose father leads the powerful Sinaloa cartel.
But the arrested man was in fact Felix Beltran Leon, a car salesman, the attorney general’s office said.
The authorities had hailed the arrest as the most important in years.
Known as El Chapo” or “Shorty”, Joaquin Guzman has been in hiding ever since he escaped from prison in 2001.
The Sinaloa cartel controls much of the flow of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine to the United States.
Within hours of the high-profile arrest, doubts had started to be cast on the official version of events.
A lawyer proclaiming to speak for the Guzman family released a statement denying that the suspect in custody was the drug boss’s son.
Mexican government has admitted that it mistakenly identified Felix Beltran Leon as the son of the country's most-wanted drugs lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
Felix Beltran Leon’s mother then spoke to journalists and denied any link to Joaquin Guzman or the Sinaloa cartel.
It took another few hours, while identity tests were carried out, before the government admitted it had made a huge mistake.
In less than a day, the episode has transformed from an apparent coup against one of Mexico’s biggest drug cartels to a major embarrassment for President Felipe Calderon’s administration, our reporter says.
US agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, were among those that had applauded the arrest.
On Thursday, the Mexican Navy had said that Jesus Guzman – known as “El Gordo”, or “The Fat One” – was a growing force within his father’s cartel and controlled most of its trade between Mexico and the US, where he was indicted in 2009.
El Chapo was jailed in 1993, but escaped from his maximum-security prison in a laundry basket eight years later.
The US state department has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
If nothing else, the debacle goes to underscore how murky and confused the world of drug cartel arrests and government intelligence has become in Mexico.
With few recent photos of the main players in the drug world available, there may be more such cases of mistaken identity to come for the Mexican armed forces.
More than 55,000 people have died in Mexico in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels nearly six years ago.