He is accused of having led for 25 years during the most powerful drug cartel in the world: the Mexican Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, extradited to the United States in 2017 after two escapes in Mexico, will be judged under high security in New York. from Monday.
According to American prosecutors, "El Chapo" – "Le Courtaud", in reference to its small size – is the most powerful narco-trafficker since the Colombian Pablo Escobar, who died in 1993. If he is convicted, he risks life sentence.
Joaquin Guzman, 61, is accused of leading the Sinaloa cartel from 1989 to 2014, which sent more than 154 tons of cocaine to the United States, as well as huge quantities of heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana. for an estimated value of 14 billion dollars.
The selection of the jury must begin Monday morning, in camera, a measure reserved for the most dangerous criminals. Sign of the possible threats, the names of the jurors will remain secret and guards will escort them every day to the court.
After about four months of hearings, they will have to decide whether the evidence is sufficient to convict El Chapo of the eleven counts against him, including drug trafficking and distribution, possession of firearms, money laundering. He pleaded not guilty.
He has not been charged with murder, but prosecutors say he can also prove that he has ordered at least 37 murders.
– Isolated 23h / 24 –
They also claim to have a mountain of evidence of guilt at the eleven indictments, overwhelming defense lawyers who regret not having been able to examine all of them: some 300,000 pages of documents, 117,000 audio recordings and quantities of photos and videos.
Many documents remain confidential as is the list of former associates, employees or rivals of Joaquin Guzman called to testify.
Some enjoy the protection of the US government under new identities. Others are held in special prisons to prevent any retaliation.
After escaping his Mexican jailers twice, El Chapo has been subjected to draconian detention conditions since his arrival in the United States in January 2017, which his lawyers have repeatedly denounced.
He is in solitary confinement in a windowless cell around the clock. The only people allowed to visit him through a window are his lawyers and seven-year-old twins. On the other hand, his wife Emma Coronel, a 29-year-old beauty queen, married when she was 17, is banned.
Since her incarceration in the United States, she has attended with their girls at almost all hearings.
Arrested for the first time in Guatemala in 1993, El Chapo escaped in 2001 from a Mexican prison, hidden in a dirty laundry bin.
Arrested in February 2014, he managed to escape fourteen months later, via a tunnel 1.5 kilometers long dug in the shower of his cell.
It was taken again in January 2016. The authorities had found its trace after it had received in the jungle the American actor Sean Penn and the American-Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, come to interview him to make a film on his life.
– Costly lawsuits –
According to Rob Heroy, a former attorney and lawyer who has defended other Mexican drug traffickers, the lawsuit could cost more than $ 50 million. Potentially "the most expensive trial in the history of the United States," he told AFP.
Even without Guzman, his cartel remains powerful. Its alleged partner, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, is still running and Mexico is suffering more than ever from the grip of drug traffickers, with a record of about 29,000 homicides in 2017.
And the United States continues to receive large amounts of drugs from its southern neighbor, including increasingly powerful opiates, which have become a major cause of US mortality.
The only holding of this trial is nevertheless a success for the American justice: although it had flooded the United States of cocaine in the years 1980, Pablo Escobar was never judged, the famous Colombian having been shot down during a police operation in Medellin in 1993.
The American authorities negotiated at length with Mexico the extradition of El Chapo, obtained with the promise that it would not be executed.