Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán could face the rest of his life in a US prison and have $14bn of his drug-trafficking profits seized by American authorities, US prosecutors said on Friday, a day after the cartel kingpin was extradited from Mexico to stand trial in New York.
Guzmán was due to make his first appearance at the Brooklyn federal court on Friday afternoon charged with leading a vast and murderous criminal operation that distributed 200 tons of cocaine for sale on American streets.
Unveiling a 17-count indictment against Guzmán at a press conference on Friday morning, Robert Capers, the US attorney for the eastern district of New York, said Guzmán would be forced to answer for a “life of crime, violence, death and destruction” as the head of the Sinaloa cartel.
“Guzmán’s story is not one of a do-gooder, or a Robin Hood, or an escape artist,” said Capers, referring to Guzmán’s record of twice fleeing Mexican prisons. Instead, said Capers, “Guzmán’s rise was akin to that of a small cancerous tumour that metastasized into a full-blown scourge.”
Capers said that in addition to decades of drug trafficking, Guzmán had maintained an army of hitmen to commit murders in defence of his network, amassed a military-style arsenal of weapons, and personally carried a gold-plated AK-47 rifle and diamond-encrusted handgun.
Standing alongside 20 officials from agencies including the FBI, NYPD, the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration, Capers said his announcement was the culmination of more than a decade of investigative work by multiple American authorities.
Guzmán was flown into the US on a Mexican law enforcement plane late on Thursday. Officials said that after landing at MacArthur airport on Long Island, he was driven in a 13-vehicle motorcade to the metropolitan correction center in Manhattan, before being moved to Brooklyn at 7am on Friday.