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Drug kingpin El Chapo sentenced to life in US prison

  • Published at 09:04 pm July 17th, 2019
Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman-drug lord
Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is shown shortly after extradition, in New York, US, January 19, 2017, in this photo released February 12, 2019 Reuters

Once the world's most notorious druglord, the 62-year-old former co-leader of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel was convicted in February of crimes spanning a quarter century

Once one of the world's most powerful and notorious criminals, Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was jailed for life Wednesday - the mandatory sentence for a host of crimes spanning a quarter-century.

Guzman, the 62-year-old former co-leader of Mexico's mighty Sinaloa drug cartel, was convicted in February in US federal court on a variety of charges, including trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana to the United States.

The much-anticipated sentencing hearing in a New York courtroom caps a dramatic legal saga and saw Guzman deliver what will likely be his final public words before he is taken to a supermax federal prison in Colorado for the rest of his days.

"Since the government of the United States is going to send me to a prison where they will never hear my name, I take this opportunity to tell them: there was no justice here," he said, wearing a gray suit, lilac shirt, purple tie and publicly sporting his mustache for the first time stateside.

The charges, which also include money laundering and weapons-related offenses, carried a mandatory life sentence.

US Federal Judge Brian Cogan tacked a symbolic 30 years on the sentence and ordered Guzman to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture - an amount based on a conservative estimate of revenues from his cartel's drug sales in the United States.

So far, US authorities have not recovered a dime.

'Great torture'

In the courtroom in Brooklyn, Guzman said prayers from his supporters had given him "strength to endure this great torture," which he said has been "one of the most inhuman that I have ever experienced... a lack of respect for my human dignity."

When entering and prior to leaving the room, he touched his heart and blew a kiss to his wife Emma Coronel, who wore a black and white suit and was perhaps seeing her husband for the last time.

Complaining bitterly that he was unable to hug his twin daughters, who did not attend the hearing, Guzman said that "the United States is no better than any other corrupt country that you do not respect." 

'Overwhelming evil'

Guzman - whose moniker "El Chapo" translates to "Shorty" - is considered to be the most influential drug lord since Colombia's Pablo Escobar, who was killed in a police shootout in 1993.

During the epic three-month trial in New York, jurors heard evidence from 56 government witnesses, with many describing in exacting detail the cartel boss beating, shooting and even burying alive those who got in his way, including informants and rival gang members.

Prosecutors won their request to tack on a symbolic extra 30 years in prison for the use of firearms in his business, portraying Guzman as "ruthless and bloodthirsty."

Cogan said he imposed the additional sentence because the "overwhelming evil is so severe."

A Colombian woman who prosecutors say survived a hit ordered by the kingpin tearfully read a statement in court Wednesday, saying Guzman had caused her psychological damage.

"I am a miracle of God, because Mr. Guzman tried to kill me," she said. "I paid a high price - I lost my family, my friends, I became a shadow without a name."

"I had everything and I lost everything, even my identity."