Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is a man accused of currently running the world’s largest drug cartel and is more popular than drug lord Pablo Escobar. He is known to have spent more than two decades smuggling more than 155 tonnes of cocaine into U.S.
The trail of El Chapo will not only cost millions of dollars but will also last four months and take place in Brooklyn federal court with anonymous jurors and with extremely high security personnel.
Years have been spent piecing together evidence against El Chapo, 61, who was extradited from Mexico in 2017 after twice escaping prison – first hidden in a laundry cart, then slipping down a tunnel that reached his prison shower.
Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, was dubbed “The King of Cocaine” and was one of the wealthiest men in the world until police shot him dead in 1993. The Sinaloa cartel was started by Guzman in 1989, so its possible he took inspiration for his cartel from Pablo Escobar and many other drug lords he was raised around, though unlike many other cartels the Sinaloa is extremely powerful and the co-defendant Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada remains at large.
Legal experts say the case against El Chapo is water-tight and this could seem him being sent to a maximum security prison for the rest of his life. Brian Cogan will preside over the process and jury selection is taking place under high security conditions as this is the most dangerous defendant.
The 12 jurors, with six alternates, will remain anonymous and will be escorted by US marshals to and from court every day.
The jury will determine whether El Chapo – the father of two whose nickname means “shorty” as he is only 5ft 2ins tall – is guilty or not of 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.
According to the indictment, the Sinaloa cartel, which El Chapo is accused of leading from 1989 to 2014, became “the largest drug trafficking organisation in the world… with thousands of members and stretches from the Americas to Europe and Asia”
It is alleged that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled at least 340,892 pounds (154,626 kilograms) of cocaine into the US, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14bn (£11bn).
He was also listed as a billionaire on Forbes magazine but dropped out soon enough as he had to spend most of his wealth from drugs on protection.
El Chapo met with actor Sean Penn secretly and the Hollywood star wrote about it in Rolling Stone magazine in 2016, saying El Chapo boasted: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”
El Chapo was initially recruited by Guadalajara cartel boss Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as “The Godfather” of Mexico’s modern drug cartels. And shortly after Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Sinaloa cartel rose to great heights.
El Chapo pleas not guilty but the government has presented a wealth of evidence that includes more than 300,000 pages and at least 117,000 audio recordings.
The trial, which one expert says will cost the US taxpayer more than $50m (£38m), will hear several hundred witnesses testify.
Some of the informants have already been absorbed into the US witness protection programme and given new identities and homes around the country.
El Chapo has been held in solitary confinement in New York since Mexico extradited him and he spends 23 hours a day in his cell. He said the jail cell is smaller than it should be and that it has affected his health too.
The only visitors he is allowed are his three lawyers and twin seven-year-old daughters – the judge banned his 29-year-old beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel, from visiting.
Arrested for the first time in Guatemala in 1993, Guzman spent more than seven years in a Mexican prison before his first escape in 2001.