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U.S. Prosecutors Offer Glimpse of Case Against Mexican Drug Lord ‘El Chapo’


Joaquín Guzmán Loera arrived at MacArthur Airport on Long Island on Thursday night. Credit via Reuters

Hours after arriving by plane from Mexico, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo, was expected to appear in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Friday to face charges of overseeing a narcotics empire that ran for decades, spanned much of North America and was protected by an army of assassins with a military-grade arsenal who, prosecutors said, did not hesitate to kill on his behalf.

While most Americans were turned toward Washington and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president, prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn planned to hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Friday to detail the charges against Mr. Guzmán, who was flown out of Mexico on Thursday afternoon and arrived that night at MacArthur Airport on Long Island.

Shortly after the plane touched down, videos emerged of a heavily armed motorcade transporting Mr. Guzmán to a New York federal jail.

By Friday morning, prosecutors had released a memorandum laying out their arguments for keeping Mr. Guzmán in custody, noting his vast wealth, his penchant for violence and his habit of escaping Mexican prisons — most notably, the Altiplano prison, a maximum-security facility where he lived in isolation and under 24-hour surveillance, but nonetheless escaped after his associates dug a tunnel from a home a mile away directly into his shower.

The government’s detention memo also gave an early glimpse of the case against Mr. Guzmán.

It said that prosecutors planned to call several witnesses who would testify about the staggering scope of Mr. Guzmán’s criminal enterprise: including its multi-ton shipments of drugs in planes and submersibles and its numerous killings of witnesses, law enforcement agents, public officials and rival cartel members.

The memo also said that the government had a vast array of physical evidence, including seized drug stashes and electronic surveillance recordings.

The 26-page memorandum of law — supplemented with photographs of mountains of seized drugs and the planes, boats and submersibles used to smuggle them — read like a history of the modern narcotics business. Prosecutors contend that Mr. Guzmán transformed the drug trade, deploying savagery, a virtual army and the corrupting force of the unchecked profits of his business.

The document tracks his progression from the 1980s, as a smuggler who transported Colombian cocaine to the United States and returned the profits to traffickers there so efficiently that he earned the nickname El Rápido, through the ’90s, when he began consolidating his control in Mexico.

In the first decade of this century, Colombian traffickers faced increased enforcement of extradition laws at home, and thus greater threat of prosecution in the United States. They therefore ceded certain elements of the distribution networks in the United States to Mexican cartels, according to the memo. As Mr. Guzmán’s operations grew, prosecutors say, they became increasingly sophisticated.

Mr. Guzmán also established a complex communications network to allow him to speak covertly with his growing empire without detection by law enforcement, according to the memo. This included “the use of encrypted networks, multiple insulating layers of go-betweens and ever-changing methods of communicating with his workers.”

Source: NYT > World

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