16 of the most shocking twists and turns of El Chapo's drug-trafficking trial

  • Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was found guilty on Tuesday on all counts of an indictment that included drug-trafficking, conspiracy, and use-of-firearms charges.
  • His trial started in November 2018, and prosecutors brought in a number of people to testify against Guzman, including cartel cohorts and one of his mistresses.
  • The 11-week trial exposed secret escape tunnels, naked escapes, bribes, and people within the Mexican government have been accused of accepting bribes.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s federal trial reads like a telenovela.

The 61-year-old Mexican drug lord watched from his seat in a Brooklyn courtroom as prosecutors brought out cartel cohorts, a Colombian kingpin, and even a mistress to testify against him.

The 11-week trial led to accusations of murder rooms, secret tunnels, and affairs. Mexican government leaders were also accused of accepting bribes – including former President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Guzman was found guilty on all counts of an indictment that included drug-trafficking, conspiracy, and use-of-firearms charges on Tuesday. He now faces life in prison in the US.

Here are the most shocking twists and turns that happened at his trial.


Read more:
Mexican cartel kingpin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman found guilty in New York trial


Prosecutors say Guzman sent “more than a line of cocaine for every single person in the United States” in just four shipments.

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.


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.


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 defence attorneys have argued that Zambada’s father is, in fact, the true leader of the Sinaloa cartel.


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 favourite, Zambada testified, was a gem-encrusted .38-calibre 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.


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.


Guzman’s cartel had a $US50 million bribe fund, according to Zambada’s testimony.

In Zambada’s testimony, he said traffickers had a $US50 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 $US1 million a month in bribes to Mexican officials – among them was Humberto Eduardo Antimo Miranda, who led the Defence Ministry under President Felipe Calderon.


Read more:
The trial of drug kingpin El Chapo exposes just how powerful Mexico’s cartels are – and how ineffective a wall would be


El Chapo’s beauty-queen wife described her husband as a “normal person.”

TelemundoEmma Coronel Aispuro, Guzman’s wife.

American-born mother-of-two Emma Coronel Aispuro, 29,spoke to Telemundo about Guzman’s trial in an interview that aired in December.

It was Coronel’s first public interview in two years.

She told Telemundo that she had never seen her husband doing anything illegal, according to translations from the New York Post.

“[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.


A weapons smuggler said a cartel hit man had a “murder room.”

Edgar Galvan testified in January 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 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.


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.


Guzman offered to buy his young daughter an AK-47 “so she can hang with me.”

Guzman texted his wife about one of their young daughters: “I’m going to give her an AK-47 so she can hang with me.”


Source: The Intelligencer.


A Colombian drug trafficker testified that Guzman boasted about paying a $US100 million bribe to a former Mexican president.

Hildebrando Alexander Cifuentes-Villa, known as Alex Cifuentes, testified that Guzman paid $US100 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 $US100 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.


Guzman’s cartel allegedly used a carbon-fibre aeroplane to evade radars while smuggling drugs.

Cifuentes also testified that he sent Guzman shipments of cocaine in carbon-fibre aeroplanes specially designed to evade radar, according to the New York Times.


A witness told the court about El Chapo’s 2001 prison escape involving a laundry cart.

Attorney General’s OfficeMexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez (2nd R) looks into the entrance of a tunnel connected to the Altiplano Federal Penitentiary and used by drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman to escape, in Almoloya de Juarez, on the outskirts of Mexico City, July 12, 2015.

Damaso Lopez Nuñez, who once was a security official in Sinaloa before becoming deputy security director at Puente Grande prison in southwest Mexico, testified against Guzman on January 23.

He said he met Guzman at Puente Grande in 1999 and resigned from the prison in 2000 when the government launched a corruption investigation at the facility.

It long been suspected that Lopez aided in Guzman’s 2001 prison escape, in which it is believed the drug lord snuck out in a laundry cart.

Lopez told the court that a laundry cart was involved but denied taking any part in the escape himself, according to Vice reporter Keegan Hamilton.


A ‘Narcos’ actor who plays El Chapo on the Netflix show made a cameo at the trial.

Alejandro Edda, 34, plays Guzman on the Netflix show “Narcos: Mexico,” which chronicles the Mexican drug trade in the 1980s. He spoke to Guzman’s attorneys after waiting in line in below-freezing temperatures to enter the Brooklyn federal court house.

He said that at one point, Guzman turned around and made eye contact, giving the actor a smile and a nod, according to CNN.

Edda said he decided to attend the trial because there is little video of Guzman, and he wanted to study his mannerisms for the show.


Guzman allegedly used to run drugs across the US border through a tunnel that he accessed via a pool table.

Retired US Customs agent Carlos Salazar told the jury about a series of tunnels Guzman allegedly used to run drugs across the US-Mexico border.

One tunnel discovered during a 1990 raid was half the length of a football field, lit with electricity, and had carts to move drugs across the border, according to NBC News.

The tunnel was accessed by lifting a pool table with a hydraulic system.


A one-time Guzman ally told the jury that the drug lord spent part of his billions on a personal zoo.

Guzman’s former ally, Miguel Ángel Martínez, told jurors that the drug lord used his riches to buy a private zoo, a $US10 million beach house, and anti-ageing treatments from Switzerland.

“He had houses at every single beach,” Martínez said, according to The Guardian. “He had ranches in every single state.”

The zoo, Martínez said, featured lions, tigers, and panthers that you could visit via a “little train.”

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