Mexico’s foreign ministry has granted two requests to extradite the imprisoned leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, to face trial in the United States.
The drug lord’s lawyers can still appeal the decision, which could at least postpone his extradition for weeks or months more.
The ministry released a statement on Friday saying it has accepted a petition to try the drug lord in a Texas federal court for the crimes of criminal association, drug trafficking, organized crime, the illegal possession of firearms, homicide, and money laundering.
The statement said the ministry has also greenlighted extradition to a federal court in Southern California to face charges of conspiracy to import, possess, and distribute cocaine.
“The US government provided sufficient guarantees that Mr. Guzmán Loera would not be subject to the death penalty if extradited and tried in that country,” the statement read.
Extradition from Mexico, where the death penalty was abolished long ago, is prohibited in cases where the alleged criminal could be sentenced to death.
Juan Pablo Badillo, one of Guzman’s attorneys, told Reuters on Friday that he will be filing multiple legal challenges against Friday’s announcement.
Extradition has been hovering over Chapo’s head ever since he was recaptured in January this year, six months after escaping from the maximum-security Altiplano prison through a mile-long tunnel that began in his cell. His escape, 16 months after he had been captured amid great fanfare, was extremely embarrassing for the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Chapo was initially taken back to the Altiplano prison but two weeks ago was suddenly moved in a secret operation by the army and the federal police to a prison near the city of Ciudad Juárez, just over the border from Texas.
The Mexican government said the move was due to “maintenance work inside Altiplano prison,” prompting rumors that the kingpin might have been close to another escape.
Officials denied reports that it was actually part of a pre-extradition strategy. The prison transfer was, however, followed by an acceleration of the extradition process.
Two days later, a Mexican federal court in Mexico City ruled in favour of granting the extradition requests. The ruling was later confirmed by another court, which meant the decision was passed to the foreign ministry.
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