Mexican drug lord Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, better known as “El Chapo”, on Friday pleaded not guilty to 17 federal charges against him in a United States court, CNN reported. The charges, read out at a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, included running a criminal organisation, conspiring to murder his rivals, money laundering and firearms violations.
Prosecutors described Guzman – who was extradited from Mexico to New York on Friday – as the leader of a three-decade-long campaign in Mexico, which made his Sinaloa drug cartel the most feared one in the country. They also accused him of being responsible for cocaine abuse and violence in the US during the 1980s and 1990s. “He’s a man known for a life of crime, violence, death and destruction, and now he’ll have to answer for that,” US Attorney Robert Capers said, according to AP.
Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against El Chapo as part of the extradition conditions set by the Mexican government. Instead, they will seek life imprisonment and the forfeiture of assets worth $14 billion (approximately Rs 95,340 crore). However, Guzman’s attorney Michael Schneider said he had not “seen any evidence” indicating that the drug lord had “done anything wrong”, adding that he would check whether his client had been extradited properly.
Guzman was first indicted by US courts in the 1990s. The 59-year-old smuggler’s career began in opium and cannabis-farming and expanded to include what is believed to be the largest transnational cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling operation with a presence in Europe and Asia. He managed to escape twice from Mexican prisons during his incarceration and reportedly controlled operations from his cell.