Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s federal trial reads like a telenovela.
The Mexican drug lord has watched from his seat in a Brooklyn courtroom as prosecutors have brought out cartel cohorts, a Colombian kingpin, and even a mistress to testify against him.
The trial has led to accusations of murder rooms, secret tunnels, and bribes. Mexican government leaders have also been accused of accepting bribes — including former President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Guzman pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking charges connected to claims that he built a multibillion-dollar fortune by smuggling cocaine and other drugs across the Mexico-US border.
He is charged with 17 counts of having links to drug trafficking in the US and Mexico.
Here are the most shocking twists and turns that have happened at his trial so far.
In opening arguments for the case, Assistant US Attorney Adam Fels described the amount of cocaine Guzman was accused of trafficking over the border.
He said that in just four of his shipments, he sent “more than a line of cocaine for every single person in the United States,” according to the BBC.
That amounts to more than 328 million lines of cocaine, Fels said.
Former Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia.
(U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York)
2. A former Colombian kingpin who altered his face to hide his identity explained international drug trafficking to the court.
Former Colombian kingpin Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia testified how his Norte del Valle cartel used planes and ships to bring cocaine to Mexico, where the Sinaloa cartel would smuggle it to the US under the direction of Guzman.
Abadia testified that he kept a ledger that showed how much hit men were paid and that he bribed Colombian authorities with millions of dollars.
He estimated that he smuggled 400,000 kilos of cocaine, ordered 150 killings, and amassed a billion-dollar fortune through his cartel.
He was arrested in 2007 and extradited to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to murder and drug charges.
3. The son of one of Sinaloa cartel’s top leaders testified against Guzman.
Much of the prosecution team’s hard-hitting testimony came from its star witness, Vicente Zambada Niebla.
Zambada is the son of one of the cartel’s top leaders, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who is considered one of Guzman’s peers within the Sinaloa cartel hierarchy.
The younger Zambada, nicknamed El Vicentillo, described in detail the exploits of the cartel in his testimony against Guzman.
In one bit of testimony, Zambada said Guzman had the brother of another cartel leader killed because he would not shake his hand when they met to make peace in a gang war.
“When [Rodolfo] left, Chapo gave him his hand and said, ‘See you later, friend,’ and Rodolfo just left him standing there with his hand extended,” Zambada said, according to BBC.
The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking charges in Chicago in 2013 and to a trafficking-conspiracy charge in Chicago days before Guzman’s trial began.
Guzman’s defense attorneys have argued that Zambada’s father is, in fact, the true leader of the Sinaloa cartel.
A diamond encrusted pistol that government witness Jesus Zambada said belonged to Guzman.
(U.S. Department of Justice)
4. Zambada also spoke about Guzman’s diamond-encrusted pistol.
Zambada testified that Guzman had an obsession with guns, and owned a bazooka and AK-47s.
His favorite, Zambada testified, was a gem-encrusted .38-caliber pistol engraved with his initials.
“On the handle were diamonds,” Zambada said of the pistol, according to the New York Post.
Prosecutors released photos of the weapon in November 2018.
5. El Chapo’s mistress described escaping Mexican marines using a secret tunnel hidden under a bathtub.
Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, 29, took the stand in a Brooklyn courtroom during Guzman’s federal trial to discuss her relationship with Guzman.
The former legislator in Mexico detailed a 2014 incident in which she and Guzman fled Mexican forces through a secret tunnel under a pop-up bathtub.
López said she was awoken one morning to Mexican marines trying to break down the door of the house in which she and Guzman were staying.
Guzman, who was naked at the time, brought her into the bathroom, and López said, “He said, ‘Love, love, come in here.’ There was like a lid on the bathtub that came up. I was scared. I was like, ‘Do I have to go in there?’ It was very dark.”
The bathtub lifted up with a hydraulic piston, and Guzman, López, and others ran through the tunnel in complete darkness, she said.
López said the tunnels led to a sewer system for Culiacán, a city in the state of Sinaloa.
6. Guzman’s cartel had a million bribe fund, according to Zambada’s testimony.
In Zambada’s testimony, he said traffickers had a million bribe fund for former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Garcia Luna to ensure their business ran smoothly, the BBC reported.
Zambada said former Mexico City Mayor Gabriel Regino was also bribed.
Luna and Regino have denied the allegations.
Zambada also testified that he paid out id=”listicle-2626652052″ million a month in bribesto Mexican officials — among them was Humberto Eduardo Antimo Miranda, who led the Defense Ministry under President Felipe Calderon.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, Guzman’s wife.
7. El Chapo’s beauty-queen wife described her husband as a “normal person.”
It was Coronel’s first public interview in two years.
“[The media] made him too famous,” Coronel said of her 61-year-old husband, who she married on her 18th birthday in 2007. “It’s not fair.”
“They don’t want to bring him down from the pedestal to make him more like he is, a normal, ordinary person,” she added.
8. A weapons smuggler said a cartel hit man had a “murder room.”
Edgar Galvan testified in January 2019 that a trusted hit man for Guzman kept a “murder room” in his house on the US border, which featured a drain on the floor to make it easier to clean.
Galvan, who said his role in the Sinaloa cartel was to smuggle weapons into the US, testified in January 2019 that Antonio “Jaguar” Marrufo was the man who had the “murder room,” according to the New York Post.
The room, Galvan said, featured soundproof walls and a drain.
“In that house, no one comes out,” Galvan told jurors.
Both men are now in jail on firearms and gun charges.
9. El Chapo put spyware on his wife’s and mistress’ phones — and the expert who installed it was an FBI informant.
Prosecutors in Guzman’s trial shared information from text messages the drug lord sent to his wife, Coronel, and a mistress named Agustina Cabanillas with the jury.
FBI Special Agent Steven Marson said US authorities obtained the information by searching records collected by a spyware software Guzman had installed on the women’s phones.
Texts appeared to show Guzman and Coronel discussing the hazards of cartel life, and Guzman using Cabanillas as a go-between in the drug business.
It turns out the IT expert who installed the spyware was actually an FBI informant.
The expert had built Guzman and his allies an encrypted communication network that he later helped the FBI crack, according to The New York Times.
10. A Colombian drug trafficker testified that Guzman boasted about paying a 0 million bribe to a former Mexican president.
Hildebrando Alexander Cifuentes-Villa, known as Alex Cifuentes, testified that Guzman paid 0 million to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was in office from December 2012 to December 2018.
Cifuentes has previously been described as Guzman’s right-hand man, who spent several years hiding in northwest Mexico with him.
“Mr. Guzman paid a bribe of 0 million to President Pena Nieto?” Jeffrey Lichtman, one of the lawyers representing Guzman, asked Cifuentes during cross-examination, according to The New York Times.
“Yes,” Cifuentes responded, adding that the bribe was conveyed to Pena Nieto through an intermediary.
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