Mexico’s ‘El Chapo’ cartel boss found guilty in US drug trial

Guzman was extradited to the United States for trial in 2017 after he was arrested in Mexico the year before. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2019
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Mexico’s ‘El Chapo’ cartel boss found guilty in US drug trial

NEW YORK: The world’s most infamous cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who rose from poverty in rural Mexico to run a global drug empire and amass billions of dollars, was found guilty in a US court on Tuesday of drug trafficking.
Jurors in federal court in Brooklyn found Guzman, 61, guilty on all 10 counts. He now faces a possible sentence of life in prison.
Guzman, one of the major figures in Mexican drug wars that have roiled the country since 2006, was extradited to the United States for trial in 2017 after he was arrested in Mexico the year before.
Though other high-ranking cartel figures had been extradited previously, Guzman was the first to go to trial instead of pleading guilty.
The trial, which featured testimony from more than 50 witnesses, offered the public an unprecedented look at the inner workings of the Sinaloa Cartel, named for the state in northwestern Mexico where Guzman was born in a poor mountain village.
The legend of Guzman was burnished by two dramatic escapes he made from Mexican prisons and by a “Robin Hood” image he cultivated among Sinaloa’s poor.
US prosecutors said he trafficked tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States over more than two decades, consolidating his power in Mexico through murders and wars with rival cartels.
Small in stature, Guzman’s nickname means “Shorty.” His smuggling exploits, the violence he used and the sheer size of his illicit business made Guzman the world’s most notorious drug baron since Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, who was shot dead by police in 1993.
Guzman’s lawyers say he was set up as a “fall guy” by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a powerful drug lord from Sinaloa who remains at large.

Drug wars
Mexico has been mired for 12 years in a deadly military-led war against drug gangs. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected last year after promising a change, suggesting a negotiated peace and amnesty for non-violent drug dealers, traffickers and farmers.
The most detailed evidence against Guzman came from more than a dozen former associates who struck deals to cooperate with US prosecutors.
Through them, jurors heard how the Sinaloa Cartel gained power amid the shifting allegiances of the Mexican drug trade in the 1990s, eventually coming to control almost the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.
They heard how Guzman made a name for himself in the 1980s as “El Rapido,” the speedy one, by building cross-border tunnels that allowed him to move cocaine from Mexico into the United States faster than anyone else.
The witnesses, who included some of Guzman’s top lieutenants, a communications engineer and a onetime mistress, described how he built a sophisticated organization reminiscent of a multinational corporation, with fleets of planes and boats, detailed accounting ledgers and an encrypted electronic communication system run through secret computer servers in Canada.
A former bodyguard testified that he watched Guzman kill three rival drug cartel members, including one victim who he shot and then ordered to be buried even as he was still gasping for air.
Estimates of how much money Guzman made from drugs vary. In 2009, Forbes Magazine put him on its list of the world’s richest people, with an estimated $1 billion. It later dropped him from the list, saying it was too difficult to quantify his assets.
The US Justice Department said in 2017 it sought forfeiture of more than $14 billion in drug proceeds and illicit profits from Guzman.
The trial also featured extensive testimony about corruption in Mexico, most of it involving bribes to law enforcement, military and local government officials so the cartel could carry out its day-to-day drug shipping operations undisturbed.
The most shocking allegation came from Guzman’s former top aide Alex Cifuentes, who accused former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto of taking a $100 million bribe from Guzman. A spokesman for the ex-president has denied the claim.
In one of the trial’s final days, Guzman told the judge he would not testify in his own defense. The same day, he grinned broadly at audience member Alejandro Edda, the Mexican actor who plays Guzman in the Netflix drama “Narcos.”
Despite his ties to government officials, Guzman often lived on the run. Imprisoned in Mexico in 1993, he escaped in 2001 hidden in a laundry cart and spent the following years moving from one hideout to another in the mountains of Sinaloa, guarded by a private army.
He was seized and imprisoned again in 2014, but pulled off his best known escape the following year when he disappeared into a tunnel dug into his cell in a maximum security prison.
But the Mexican government says he blew his cover through a series of slip ups, including an attempt to make a movie about his life. He was finally recaptured in January 2016 following a shootout in Sinaloa.


Duterte asks why critical ex-police officer ‘is still alive’

In this Oct. 9, 2018, file photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses congressmen and Government officials during the presentation of Republic Act bills in a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines. (AP)
Updated 23 min 25 sec ago
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Duterte asks why critical ex-police officer ‘is still alive’

  • More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in what police say were gunbattles that ensued during drug raids under Duterte’s crackdown, alarming Western governments and human rights groups

MANILA, Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday accused a dismissed police colonel, who had publicly criticized him and his deadly anti-drug campaign, of criminal involvement and said he wanted to know why the former officer “is still alive.”
In a late-night televised speech, Duterte condemned dismissed Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto, who told reporters over the weekend that the president had been repeatedly photographed with two Chinese men involved in drug trafficking.
Duterte defended one of the two Chinese men, saying he had accompanied China’s premier on a visit to the Philippines and was a businessman who traveled to the country in 1999 to sell Chinese-made cellphones.
Acierto, a veteran anti-narcotics officer before his dismissal by an anti-graft agency last year, said he submitted a report to top police officials and Duterte’s office about the two Chinese to warn the president of their background. But he said he was never informed if the two were ever investigated.
“In my investigation, I discovered that our president ... is often accompanied by two people deeply involved in illegal drugs,” Acierto told a news conference late Sunday in Manila, adding that he was later accused by authorities in a criminal complaint of involvement in drug smuggling instead of the Chinese men.
Duterte said Acierto was the only police official who has made the allegations against the two men. He said Acierto was an “idiot” allegedly involved in corruption, drug smuggling, kidnappings of Chinese nationals and the killing of a South Korean man.
“Don’t ever believe specially this Acierto,” Duterte said in a speech in southern Koronadal city. “What if I ask the military and the police, ‘Why is this son of a bitch still alive?“
Acierto denied any wrongdoing.
The president mentioned Acierto while talking about his efforts to combat corruption, including corrupt policemen. He also criticized and ridiculed opposition senatorial candidates running in mid-term elections in May.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino told The Associated Press on Monday that he received Acierto’s report and sent it to Duterte’s office, adding that both his office and that of the president took steps to validate the allegations against the two Chinese. He said the two were not on any list of drug suspects.
Aquino played down the photographs showing Duterte with the two Chinese men, saying officials often get approached by all sorts of people for group photographs without being able to rapidly check their background. He questioned the credibility of Acierto, who he accused of being linked to drug smuggling.
Profiles of the two Chinese provided by Acierto to reporters said they were involved in the “manufacturing, financing, the importation, transhipment and local distribution of meth or shabu,” referring to the local name for methamphetamine, a stimulant.
Acierto said he initially welcomed Duterte’s passion to combat illegal drugs. But he said he later realized that the president’s deadly crackdown took a wrong approach by targeting mostly poor drug suspects instead of going after powerful drug lords and traffickers.
More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in what police say were gunbattles that ensued during drug raids under Duterte’s crackdown, alarming Western governments and human rights groups.