Lawyers for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the world's most notorious living drugs baron, have told a New York court that their client is a scapegoat for a conspiracy whose mastermind bribed Mexican presidents to avoid capture.
But, at the opening of his long-awaited U.S. trial, prosecutors said Guzman was an utterly ruthless criminal boss who ordered hits on his own family. The cocaine lord is considered the world's most prolific drug trafficker since the death of Colombia's Pablo Escobar.
In opening statements, amid tight security in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, assistant U.S. attorney Adam Fels told a jury how the man who got his start in a modest marijuana-selling business became a kingpin known for using an army of hitmen to wipe out his competitors, and anyone within his Sinaloa cartel who betrayed him.
“Money, drugs, murder... that is what this case is about,” he said.
Guzman's lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, sought to shift blame to Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, another reputed drug trafficker in the cartel's leadership. The lawyer claimed that, unlike Guzman, Zambada remained at large in Mexico because of the corruption that goes "up to the very top", including “hundreds of millions in bribes” paid to the current and former presidents of Mexico.
Former president Felipe Calderon said on Twitter that the allegations are “absolutely false and reckless.”
A spokesman for the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, called the bribery claim “false and defamatory.”
Guzman, who has been held in solitary confinement since his extradition early last year, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he amassed a multibillion-dollar fortune by smuggling tons of cocaine and other drugs in a vast supply chain.
As RadarOnline.com readers know, Guzman had two dramatic prison escapes. In 2015, he famously fled through a mile-long tunnel dug into a shower inside his cell in Mexico before being extradited to the U.S.
After a morning plagued by delays and issues with the jury, the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán began Tuesday in Brooklyn with an explosive round of opening statements.
At the time, federal prosecutors alleged that El Chapo controlled a “vast global narco-empire” worth billions of dollars for more than 30 years. Prosecutor Adam Fels said that El Chapo shipped tons of cocaine and other drugs to the U.S. and was the “hands-on” boss who personally pulled the trigger on multiple murders.