Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will be extradited to the United States by February 2017, Mexico’s top security official says.
However, El Chapo Guzman can appeal any decision to extradite him and his lawyers say they will “fight until the end”.
El Chapo Guzman faces multiple charges in the US, including drug trafficking and murder.
The drug lord is being held in a maximum security prison in Ciudad Juarez, near the US border.
El Chapo Guzman was arrested in January after six months on the run following his escape through a tunnel in his jail cell.
He had already escaped a maximum security facility once before, spending 13 years at large.
In a TV interview, Renato Sales Heredia, Mexico’s national security commissioner, said that the government hoped to extradite the cartel boss “in January or February”.
However, El Chapo Guzman’s lawyer, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, said there were too many appeals pending for the extradition to happen so quickly.
“That’s not enough time,” Jose Refugio Rodriguez said, adding that the only way to send Guzman to the US by early next year would be “to take him out [of jail] by force”.
Mexico agreed to transfer El Chapo Guzman in May after the US guaranteed he would not face the death penalty.
A judge began reviewing the case in September, but it is unclear when a ruling will be announced.
VIDEO Mexico has authorized the extradition of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to the US to face charges including smuggling and murder.
El Chapo Guzman’s lawyers have 30 days to appeal and even if it proceeds it could be months before he is sent north.
He was recaptured in January, six months after escaping through a tunnel from his maximum-security prison cell.
Earlier in May the Mexican authorities transferred El Chapo Guzman to a prison near the US border.
Mexican officials denied the move to Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, was a precursor to extradition.
El Chapo Guzman faces charges from seven US federal prosecutors. He is also accused of money-laundering, and arms and drugs possession.
The drug lord’s lawyer, Juan Pablo Badillo, told Reuters news agency he would file “many” legal challenges in the coming days.
Mexico’s foreign ministry has said the US has guaranteed El Chapo Guzman will not face the death penalty if the extradition goes ahead.
Born to a farming family, El Chapo Guzman went on to become head of the Sinaloa cartel, at one point thought to be responsible for a quarter of all drugs entering the US via Mexico.
Before his escape in 2015, El Chapo Guzman had already fled prison, going on the run for more than a decade.
According to Mexican authorities, drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, aka “Shorty”, used an elaborate tunnel to break out of a maximum security prison.
El Chapo Guzman’s escape route from Altiplano jail was more than 1 mile long and had ventilation and stairs, the national security commissioner said.
Eighteen guards are being questioned.
Joaquin Guzman was last seen in the showers of the jail on July 11. It was the second time he had escaped from a top security prison.
In 2001, El Chapo Guzman broke out by hiding in a laundry basket after bribing prison officials.
He had been serving a sentence of more than 20 years after being arrested in Guatemala in 1993.
His recapture in 2014 was hailed as a victory for Mexico’s government.
Officials say that El Chapo Guzman’s escape was discovered when officers checked his cell in the jail, which is near the capital, Mexico City.
They found a hole around 32ft deep with a ladder, which led to the tunnel, with lighting, ventilation and stairs.
It came to an end at a construction site outside the prison walls, security commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said at a news conference.
A motorcycle was also discovered, which police believe was used to transport tools and remove earth from the space.
A manhunt has been launched and flights suspended at a nearby Toluca airport.
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto has ordered a full investigation to establish whether any officials helped Joaquin Guzman escape.
“I was profoundly shocked by the news. This is an affront to the Mexican state,” he said.
El Chapo Guzman’s wealth is estimated at $1 billion.
His rise to head of the Sinaloa cartel made him the world’s most wanted drug trafficker. It smuggles huge amounts of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine into the US.
Before his recapture in 2014, the US state department had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch issued a statement saying the US government shared Mexico’s concern regarding the escape of El Chapo Guzman.
“In addition to his crimes in Mexico, he faces multiple drug trafficking and organized crime charges in the United States,” she said.
Loretta E. Lynch said the US government is ready to co-operate with Mexico to help recapture El Chapo Guzman.