Wednesday, 28 September 2016

'El Chapo' Guzmán's extradition case is in limbo, but US prosecutors are ready to put him on trial

epn el chapo

The long-awaited judicial review of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán's injunctions against his extradition to the US ended without a resolution on Monday, according to his lawyers.

It looks likely that a judge's decision on whether to uphold or strike down an appeal against the extradition approved by the government in May will likely take days or weeks to emerge.

A US official said a ruling could take 15 days, while Guzmán's attorneys have said months could pass before it's issued.

"Here there is uncertainty because we could wait two, three months up to six months for a resolution of the injunction," José Refugio Rodríguez, one of Guzmán's lawyers, told Radio Formula.

Should the judge rule against Guzmán, his legal team would have 10 days to appeal to a higher court, which then could take weeks to decide — extending the process for weeks or months more.

After a hearing that lasted less than two hours on Monday, one of Guzmán's lawyers, Andrés Granados, told reporters that the Mexican department of "foreign relations is going to lodge a revision in case [the resolution] favors us."

"If it doesn't favor us we are going to request a revision" by a panel of judges, Granados went on, noting that the kingpin's representatives could take the legal fight all the way to the country's supreme court.

El Chapo Guzman fake escape story prison photo

With the legal wrangling set to continue, there are varying estimates on when Guzmán is headed north.

Granados told AFP that if Guzmán is "judged according to the law, he won't be extradited this year or during the six-year term" of current President Enrique Pena Nieto, which ends in 2018. A US government official told AFP that the Sinaloa cartel chief could be in US hands before the end of this year.

'Believe me, they all want ... to prosecute him'

In spite of that uncertainty, however, multiple US jurisdictions with indictments against the kingpin, along with US federal officials, are gearing up to face one of the most well-known and powerful figures in the history of the drug trade.

As part of these preparations, US government officials are in close contact with their counterparts in Mexico City.

"The US government at the highest levels is coordinating closely with the Mexican executive branch at the highest levels to make sure that if the judicial system in Mexico does ultimately approve of his extradition, that the United States has some slight advance notice and to where he will be sent," Peter Vincent, a former legal adviser at the US Department of Homeland Security, told Business Insider.

Peter Vincent 60 Minutes El Chapo

Guzmán is currently incarcerated at a facility near Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico.

His housing is also a source of legal concern, as his successful appeal to transfer him back to Altiplano prison in central Mexico (which he broke out of in 2015) has reportedly been meet with an appeal from the Mexican government.

In May, the Mexican government approved extradition requests from two US jurisdictions: the West District of Texas and and the Southern District of California, where the cartel leader faces charges that include drug trafficking, homicide, and money laundering.

Several other US District Courts have indictments pending against Guzmán, including the Eastern District of New York, the Northern District of Illinois, and the Southern District of Florida.

"The full weight of the United States government, predominantly the US Department of Justice, will assist whichever US attorney's office is actually essentially awarded the opportunity to prosecute him," Vincent told Business Insider.

"And believe me, they all want the opportunity to prosecute him, because he is the best well-known, most infamous criminal in the world right now," Vincent added.

While there are indications that he will stand trial in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, he is sure to face a concerted effort from US prosecutors wherever he ends up.

"All of the DOJ will pull together and they will share evidence ... in a way that puts the United States government, and the Mexican government, in the best position possible to get a conviction," Vincent said. "If he actually opts to go to trial, as opposed to taking a plea agreement."

SEE ALSO: Mexican homicides have reached a new high, and an alarming trend is developing

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