Colombian drug lords are ready to testify against El Chapo, federal prosecutors say
Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán arrived in New York City late Thursday night after his surprise extradition from Mexico, and the notorious drug lord is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday in Brooklyn.
Ahead of Chapo’s first court date, federal prosecutors have filed a 56-page memorandum that details why the notorious drug kingpin, who twice escaped from maximum-security prisons in Mexico, ought to be detained while his case is pending. The document also offers the first glimpse at the evidence against Chapo, and describes some of the witnesses who would be called to testify against him if he goes to trial.
The court filing chronicles more than three decades of exploits that made Chapo “the most notorious drug trafficker in the world” and the leader of “the world’s largest and most prolific drug trafficking organization.” It says he imported at least 200 metric tons of cocaine from Colombia, earning him more than $14 billion in illicit proceeds.
Chapo, prosecutors write, poses “an extreme danger to the community,” and releasing him would “guarantee” his flight from the country. To support those claims, the memo alleges that “Guzman has an arsenal of military grade weapons to protect his person, his drugs and his drug empire.”
“Guzman maintains substantial drug distribution networks in the United States, including the New York area,” the document states. “Thus, although a citizen of Mexico, Guzman has members of his organization nearby, ready to assist him to flee the Court’s jurisdiction.”
Prosecutors also claim that “Guzmán’s influence knows no bounds.” The drug lord allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to corrupt “officials at every level of local, municipal, state, national, and foreign government.”
The document states that prosecutors plan to call “dozens of witnesses who have had face-to-face dealings with Guzmán,” including “numerous Colombian cartel leaders and other suppliers” who arranged “multi-ton cocaine shipments” with him.
The evidence also reportedly includes “recovered drug ledgers from Colombian cartel bosses and suppliers, which detail the financial agreements between Guzmán and the suppliers for various drug shipments.”
If released, prosecutors argue, Chapo will try to kill the witnesses and “reassume his leadership throne” atop the Sinaloa Cartel.
“He would draw on his nearly boundless, undisclosed wealth to orchestrate his flight from the jurisdiction and sustain himself in hiding, as he has done twice before,” prosecutors write. “Guzmán’s massive wealth provides him with the ability to tempt all but the strongest of individuals with large cash bribes to assist him in his flight.”
Bureau of Prisons records do not state where Chapo is currently being held, but the New York Post reports that he arrived Thursday night at a jail in downtown Manhattan, likely the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The highly secure federal facility is known as “Little Gitmo” because it houses many terrorism suspects in isolation while they await trial.
Federal court records do not list an attorney for Guzman in the United States.