Mexican drug lord El Chapo to appear before New York court

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman being escorted by Mexican police as he is extradited to the United States on Jan 19, 2017.
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman being escorted by Mexican police as he is extradited to the United States on Jan 19, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK CITY (REUTERS) - Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is expected to appear in a court in New York on Friday (Jan 20), shortly after his surprise extradition from Mexico ended a decades-long career in drug-trafficking, dare-devil jail breaks and murder.

A Justice Department spokesman said El Chapo, or Shorty, once one of the world's most wanted drug lords, was set to appear for an arraignment at the federal court in Brooklyn.

Guzman, 59, arrived in a small jet at Long Island's MacArthur Airport after nightfall on Thursday (Jan 19) from a prison in the city of Juarez in the northern state of Chihuahua, where his Sinaloa cartel crushed the rival Juarez gang.

A few hours earlier, he was bundled out of the Mexican cell block with his hands cuffed above his bowed head, Mexican television footage showed.

The drug lord is charged in six separate indictments throughout the United States. He is accused of money laundering and drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder in cities including Chicago, Miami and New York.

Mexico's court authority said he would be tried in California and Texas, raising the prospect he will appear in courts in the border towns of San Diego and El Paso, which have indictments against him.

Robert Capers, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will hold a press conference in Brooklyn about the case at 10am local time.

El Chapo was captured a year ago, six months after he fled a high-security penitentiary in central Mexico through a tunnel over a kilometre long, his second dramatic prison escape.

Leading the Sinaloa cartel, he oversaw perhaps the world's largest transnational cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling operation, playing a key role in Mexico's decade-long drug war that has killed over 100,000.

The extradition came on the eve of Mr Donald Trump's swearing-in as president, a coincidence that some officials saw as an olive branch to the real estate mogul, who said he would kick Guzman's "ass" on taking office.

The Mexican Attorney General's office rejected claims the move was related to Mr Trump's inauguration, noting that El Chapo faces 10 pending cases in Mexico following his US sentence.

Mr Trump's election sent Mexico's peso to record lows. He has threatened to tax Mexican-made products for the US market, build a wall along the border and scrap a free trade agreement with Mexico if he cannot renegotiate it to favour American interests.

One of Guzman's lawyers said he was surprised at the extradition and said four appeals were outstanding against it.