Extradition process begins for El Chapo

  • 11/01/2016
Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers (Reuters)
Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers (Reuters)

Mexico's government has notified recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman that he is wanted in the United States, formally beginning extradition proceedings against him.

The Attorney General's Office said on Sunday (local time) in a statement that Guzman was told that two arrest warrants from the US are being processed.

The notification was done by agents of the international police agency Interpol at the maximum security prison where Guzman is being held.

Mexico recaptured Guzman in a pre-dawn shootout on Friday after six months on the run.

Officials have cautioned that the extradition process might take some time.

Guzman's attorney Juan Pablo Badillo has said that the defence already has filed six motions to challenge extradition requests.

Chicago and Brooklyn, New York are leading contenders to host the first US trial of Guzman if he is extradited from Mexico, say former US law enforcement officials.

Several jurisdictions are vying for what would be one of the most high-profile US criminal trials in years.

The trial venue, which will ultimately be decided by the US attorney general, currently Loretta Lynch, is important because it will determine the specific charges that Guzman faces and the strength of the case against the world's top drug lord.

Guzman is facing open federal indictments in seven US jurisdictions on charges ranging from money laundering to drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder.

In addition to Chicago and both Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York, Guzman faces indictments in San Diego, Miami, New Hampshire and El Paso, Texas.

"It will boil down to which jurisdiction has the best case and the best evidence when he finally crosses the border," said Theresa Van Vliet, a former chief of narcotics and senior litigation counsel at the Justice Department.

Officials at the Brooklyn and Chicago US Attorney's offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment and the Manhattan Attorney's office declined to comment.

Chicago has a sweeping 2009 indictment against him, including several counts of conspiring to smuggle and distribute drugs, as well as money laundering charge.

Prosecutors there have secured the cooperation of two strong witnesses, twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, convicted drug traffickers who secretly taped Guzman.

"It will be a fight between each jurisdiction but logic would say that Chicago is the way to go," said former US Drug Enforcement Administration agent Robert Mazur, who spent five years undercover infiltrating the criminal hierarchy of Colombia's drug cartels and is now president of a Florida private investigations agency.

Mexico could extradite Guzman by mid-year, sources familiar with the situation said.

However, the timing will likely depend on any injunctions filed by Guzman's lawyers, meaning that a US trial could still be a year or more away.

In Brooklyn, El Paso and San Diego, Guzman is charged with participating in a continuing criminal enterprise under a federal law specifically targeting drug traffickers.

The Brooklyn-based US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, has a track record of trying high profile criminals and could be helped by its proximity to Washington D.C., legal sources said.

AP / Reuters