MEXICO CITY (AP) — Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most notorious cartel kingpin who twice made brazen prison escapes and spent years on the run as the country’s most wanted man, was extradited to the U.S. on Thursday to face drug trafficking and other charges.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department announced Guzman was handed over to U.S. authorities for transportation to the U.S. on Thursday, the last full day of President Barack Obama’s administration and a day before Donald Trump is to be inaugurated.
The U.S. Justice Department issued a statement confirming that Guzman was en route to the United States and expressed gratitude to Mexico for its cooperation.
A senior U.S. official said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took custody of Guzman in Ciudad Juarez, which is across the border from El Paso, Texas, and a plane carrying him departed for New York at 5:31 p.m. EST. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and agreed to give the information only if not quoted by name.
The convicted Sinaloa cartel boss has been held most recently in a prison near Ciudad Juarez. He was recaptured a year ago after escaping from a second maximum-security prison through a tunnel dug to his cell. He had fought extradition since then.
Guzman faces the possibility of life in a U.S. prison under multiple indictments in six jurisdictions around the United States, including New York, San Diego, Chicago and Miami.
A federal indictment in the Eastern District of New York, where Guzman is expected to be prosecuted, accuses him of overseeing a trafficking cartel with thousands of members and billions of dollars in profits laundered back to Mexico. It says Guzman and other members of the Sinaloa cartel employed hit men who carried out murders, kidnappings and acts of torture.
He was first indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury in July 2009. A superseding indictment was issued in May charging him and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada with a variety of drug, gun and money laundering charges as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.
A Mexican Foreign Relations Department statement said a court had ruled against Guzman’s appeal and found that his extradition would be constitutional.
The White House, which was down to a skeleton staff hours before Trump takes office, said it had no immediate comment.
Associated Press writer Peter Orsi reported this story in Mexico City and AP writer Bradley Klapper reported from Washington. AP writers Alicia Caldwell and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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[Photo: In this Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, a handcuffed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is made to face the press as he is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican soldiers and marines at a federal hangar in Mexico City. According to Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, Guzman has been extradited to the United States on Thursday, Jan. 19 2017. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)]