Mexican drug boss Guzman, jailed for life, blasts ‘unfair trial’ in US

Mexican drug boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, above, was sentenced to life in jail plus 30 years by a district court in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday.

Judge Brian Cogan also ordered Guzman to pay back $12.6 billion which he is estimated to have earned through illegal drug deals stretching to nearly 25 years.

Guzman, who led the notorious Sinaloa Cartel for decades and escaped jail twice, has been put in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan since his extradition to the US in 2017.

In February this year, the court found Guzman guilty of running a criminal enterprise for decades to traffic more than 200 tonnes of cocaine into the US using his boats, planes and secret tunnels and conspiring to commit murder and money-laundering.

He also allegedly bribed former president of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto with $100 million to facilitate the drugs smuggling.

Guzman’s lawyers argued that their client was framed by other criminals. They can appeal the court ruling which came after an 11-week long trial.

Guzman’s prosecutors argued that evidence collected during the trial pointed to him as ruthless leader of one of the most powerful drug-trafficking organisations in Mexico.

Despite the severity of his crimes, Guzman escaped death penalty on Wednesday because that was part of America’s extradition deal with Mexico.

Before his sentencing after nearly a one-hour hearing, Guzman saluted his family seated in the courtroom and denounced the harsh conditions in the “jail-like fortress” he had been locked up since his extradition.

Guzman described his solitary confinement as mental torture.

He said he was forced to drink dirty water and denied access to fresh air and sunlight. To sleep, he had to plug his ears with toilet paper because of the noisy air duct.

His wife Emma Coronel Aispuro was denied permission to meet him and he was not allowed to hug his daughters during their prison visits.

The former drug boss said he was physically, emotionally and mentally tortured inside the Manhattan correctional centre.

He alleged he was not given a fair trial. Jurors violated a court order by reading news reports about his case during the hearing.

He said there is no justice in the US which, according to him, is like any other corrupt country.

Brian Benckowski, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said Guzman’s path, which was paved with death, drugs and destruction, has ended with justice.

Last month, Judge Cogan had rejected Guzman’s request to allow him to exercise on the jail roof because he had twice escaped from Mexican prisons, first in a laundry basket and then through a mile-long tunnel his accomplices had dug to his cell.

The judge sentenced him to additional 30 years for unlawful use of firearms, including machine guns. Although Guzman will remain in the Manhattan correctional centre for some time, he may be shifted to a high security prison in Colorado.