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Trial of Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' set to begin in US

Alleged head of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel is charged with 17 counts, including murder conspiracy, drug-trafficking and money-laundering.

Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo'

The trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, also known as "El Chapo", is set to start on Monday in New York.

The notorious alleged head of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel is charged with 17 counts, including murder conspiracy, drug-trafficking and money-laundering. 

The trial, which will take place at Brooklyn federal court, is expected to last more than four months.

According to the indictment, the Sinaloa cartel, which Guzman is accused of leading from 1989 to 2014, became "the largest drug trafficking organisation in the world ... with thousands of members".

US prosecutors contend that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled at least 154,626kg of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14bn.

Guzman pleads not guilty, but the US government has presented so much evidence - more than 300,000 pages and at least 117,000 audio recordings - that the defence complains they have not had enough time to review it all.

"Nobody is going to be as ready to try this case as they would like to be," US District Judge Brian Cogan said at a hearing last month. 

The final jury selection will be conducted in security conditions reserved only for the most dangerous defendants. Cogan will preside over the process behind closed doors.

The 12 jurors, with six alternates, will remain anonymous. US officers will escort them to and from court every day.

Arrests and escapes

Guzman, 61, has been branded the world's biggest drug lord since Colombia's Pablo Escobar, who was dubbed "The King of Cocaine" and was one of the wealthiest men in the world until police shot him dead in 1993.

After his first arrest in Guatemala in 1993, Guzman spent more than seven years in a Mexican prison before escaping in 2001.

He was re-arrested by Mexican marines in February 2014, but managed to escape again 14 months later.

Guzman was re-captured in January 2016 after a visit from Hollywood actor Sean Penn and a Mexican actress, who wanted to make a film about his life, allowed Mexican authorities to trace his whereabouts.

This time, Mexico decided to put him on a plane and send him to the United States. Since then, Guzman has spent his time in solitary confinement.

Despite the arrest, the Sinaloa cartel is still hugely powerful.

His codefendant, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, remains at large, and violent drug trafficking continues unabated in Mexico.

"Drug trafficking does not depend on one person, it depends on a lot of people," Guzman told the Rolling Stone Magazine in a interview on 2016. 

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