Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, escaped from a maximum security prison through a 1.5-kilometer (1 mile) tunnel that opened into the shower area of his cell, the country’s top security official announced on Sunday, July 12th 2015.
The elaborate, ventilated escape hatch built allegedly without the detection of authorities allowed Guzman to do what Mexican officials promised would never happen after his re-capture last year — slip out of one of the country’s most secure penitentiaries for the second time.
Eighteen employees from various part of the Altiplano prison 55 miles (90 kilometers) west of Mexico City have been taken in for questioning, Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said in a news conference without answering questions.
A search operation began immediately in the surrounding area and highways. Flights were also suspended at Toluca airport, near the prison.
Guzmán was captured in February 2014 after more than a decade on the run. He was listed as 56 years old at the time, though there are varying dates for his birth. He faces multiple federal drug trafficking indictments in the US and was on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted list.
During his time as a fugitive, Guzmán transformed himself from a middling Mexican boss into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. His fortune grew to be estimated at more than $1bn (£650m), according to Forbes magazine, which listed him among the world’s most powerful people and ranked him above the presidents of France and Venezuela.
Monte Alejandro Rubido, Mexico’s security commissioner, said Guzman was last seen around 8 p.m., when he reported for medicine. Then he headed off to the showers. After a time, when he never reappeared, the alert was sounded and he couldn’t be found.
“This is something that had been cooking for months,” security expert and former government intelligence officer Alejandro Hope said in a television interview. “It shows the weakness of the entire chain of [Mexico’s] judicial system.”
The U.S. had offered more than $5 million USD for his capture.
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